Blind School to pay for discrimination against a former employee

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A disabled woman who was discriminated against by her former bosses secured a historic victory in the Industrial Court yesterday.
One-and-a-half years after she was dismissed from her job, Susan Rolle, a legally blind woman, said her victory in the Industrial Court is a win for anyone being discriminated against because of their disability.
On October 3, 2016, Rolle returned from her approved vacation leave to be terminated from the post she had held at the Industrial School for the Blind since November 2014.
The lupus patient said she initially felt “defeated,” but she was prepared to put up a fight for the sake of her two young children.
“It was never about the money, and I am feeling really great. I actually feel liberated. This win is not just for me. It is for the other disabled people around Antigua and the Caribbean, because I know there are a lot of issues, and out of fear of being discriminated against or fired, employees keep their mouths closed,” Rolle said.
In an exclusive interview with OBSERVER media, an elated Rolle said she agreed to the settlement from the Industrial School for the Blind. She was awarded a sum in damages for the action the business took when it wrongly dismissed her due to her disability.
The 34-year-old added that she did not wish to be reinstated. She revealed that at the risk of working in the volatile environment, she decided not to return to the business located on lower All Saints Road.
Rolle said she hopes that her victory in the court would empower those fearing victimisation from any other organisation to speak up.
“It is not just Susan Rolle or Bernard Warner, [president of the disability association] can speak out. People need to know that they can speak up and seek justice instead of suffering silently,” Rolle posited. “I fight every day, and to return from vacation to be handed a termination letter, I felt like lupus won.”
The young mother said she found the strength to fight, particularly for her two children, now 13 and 10, because she is prepared to be the best role model to them.
In 2010, Rolle was diagnosed with lupus. Today, she can see less than 20 percent, which means she is visually impaired and cannot read or make out some details.
Anderson Carty, industrial relations consultant and trade union official, said the hearing in the Industrial Court culminated yesterday after the employer defaulted on filing documentation before the court, and there was an ex-partied hearing after an application by Rolle to proceed without her former boss.
Legal counsel from the blind school was part of the hearing yesterday and was involved in the assessment process for the compensation Rolle would receive.
“To the credit of the employer, they did agree to accept liability for unfair dismissal. Very early on, the employer agreed they acted badly, but they were not prepared to accept the employee’s position of an acceptable settlement,” Carty said. “The president of the court did allow both parties an opportunity to see if they could resolve the matter amicably. We reached a consensus.”
Knowles Charles of the Legal Aid Centre assisted and represented the Antigua and Barbuda Society of the Blind, trading as the Industrial School for the Blind.

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