A deaf customer of Permanent TSB has been awarded €8,500 compensation after the bank refused to deal with a sign language interpreter who was assisting her with a phone call.

Equal Status Act 2000

Under the Equal Status Act 2000, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) ruled that the woman had been discriminated against on the grounds of her disability, as well as being “greatly inconvenienced” by her bank.

The WRC was told that, while the complainant would generally use Permanent TSB’s smartphone application for her daily banking needs, she needed to speak directly with someone who worked at the bank over an issue with her password in the summer of 2019.

The complainant went on to say that that, after booking an interpreter through the Irish Sign Language Interpreting Services to help her communicate with the bank, the call was passed around between various officials before a manager eventually confirmed it could not do business with her through a third party.

Contesting the allegations, Permanent TSB rejected any claims that it had not accommodated the complainant sufficiently as she was invited to attend any branch or use its website. It further agued that the complainant was treated no differently than any other customer would have been in that situation.

Blanket Refusal

However, the complainant stated that she would have had the same problem had she visited a branch of Permanent TSB, and that their blanket refusal to deal with third-party representatives was discriminatory and affront to her sense of independence.

While WRC adjudicator Penelope McGrath praised the bank for its response and willingness to look at how it might accommodate all deaf people, she went on to say that she could not understand why the bank had not agreed some sort of bespoke arrangement with the customer since she first made a complaint to the WRC in early 2020. She further noted that the appointment of an official liaison to deal with the complainant in this instance would have been “a modest but helpful intervention”.

In a summation of its decision, the WRC concluded that an Irish Sign Language interpreter was an essential aid to a deaf person, and that the bank’s failure to consider this amounted to indirect discrimination on the grounds of disability.

*In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.*