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Phonecall suggestion to deaf islander 'not discrimination'

Phonecall suggestion to deaf islander 'not discrimination'

Monday 11 October 2021

Phonecall suggestion to deaf islander 'not discrimination'


A G4S employee did not discriminate against an islander with hearing loss by suggesting a phone call to discuss her parking complaint, a tribunal has ruled.

Kathleen Fortun said G4S had discriminated against her by refusing to communicate with her by email and closing her complaint without resolving it - but the Employment and Discrimination Tribunal has rejected her claim.

On 22 December 2020, Ms Fortun contacted the managing agents for her block of flats over concerns about parking and was told to contact G4S, who were the parking control officers for the area.

In her email to the company, Ms Fortun questioned why there were “so many cars parked” on her estate saying that the day before, there had been “several cars and vans outside” when she came home.

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Pictured: Ms Fortun first contacted G4S via email.

G4S’s Operation Support Officer replied the next day asking Ms Fortun to supply the registration numbers of vehicles who didn’t have a permit or were parked where they shouldn’t be. 

Ms Fortun replied: “In any case, what is the point, you don’t take action, reply to emails or even monitor your email box and you ask an elderly person to do your job while you sit on your arse!!” 

The employee suggested Ms Fortun call him “to talk through her comments” but she questioned why he didn’t want to talk by email. “Because it will be recorded,” she said. “You want to talk on the phone. Isn’t that discrimination.”

Following this, Joe Cairney, G4S Security Services Manager contacted Ms Fortun saying he was unsure what her complaint was, adding that if she didn’t provide more information, he would close it at the end of the day and suggesting she provide “relevant information to back up your statements so they can be fairly investigated.”

In her email, Ms Fortun stated she couldn’t talk over the phone and only used emails, she questioned why the first employee had wanted to talk to her on the phone and what other means of communication the company had.

Ms Fortun then wrote that G4S had refused to “make reasonable adjustments for communicating with the deaf”. However, Mr Cairney replied they were “happy to communicate” with her in any way.

“The fact that you are stating that we refuse to communicate via email, when communicating both ways via email is confusing and doesn’t quite make sense or back up your complaint,” he added. “If you wish to make a complaint please do so via email or phone at your convenience. If you wish to communicate in another manner please let me know and I will accommodate as far as I reasonably can.”

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Pictured: Ms Fortun claimed G4S had refused to “make reasonable adjustments for communicating with the deaf”.

Further emails followed with each party repeating points they had previously made. Mr Cairney eventually closed down the email chain in January 2021 by asking Ms Fortun to address all further correspondence about parking issues to the managing agent. 

The Employment and Discrimination Tribunal concluded G4S had not discriminated against Ms Fortun as they had made reasonable adjustments to accommodate her disability, having made clear that, although an employee had suggested a phone call, emails were “acceptable”.

They also found that closing down her complaint had not been direct discrimination against her. 

They noted it was “unfortunate” the flats’ managing agents had referred Ms Fortun to G4S as it was outside the scope of their contract, adding that the company had nonetheless offered to try and deal with the parking issue. 

The Tribunal noted Ms Fortun had refused to provide more information when asked to do so and instead “fixated” on the suggestion of a phone call.

“She either misread or deliberately misinterpreted his email suggesting a phone call as being a requirement that communication could only take place by phone,” Dr Elena Moran, the Tribunal Chair wrote in her judgment.

“Unable to obtain any further information from Miss Fortun, G4S closed the complaint and refused to communicate with her about it any further. In our opinion they were perfectly entitled to do so. Their decision had nothing to do with the fact that Miss Fortun is deaf but was based on their conclusion that there was no substance to the complaint.”

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