Peterborough MP Fiona Onasanya discrimination tribunal: ‘Impossible’ to cater for every known disability

It would be ‘impossible’ for an employer to cater for every known disability, a tribunal looking into whether Peterborough MP Fiona Onasanya discriminated against a former case worker has been told.

Jan Goodenough, who worked for Ms Onasanya as a case worker in October and November 2017, suffers from a number of conditions, including arthritis, IBS and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Fiona Onasanya entering court. Photo: Terry Harris

Fiona Onasanya entering court. Photo: Terry Harris

She claims she was discriminated against because of poor disabled access as there was only one lift - which was broken during part of her time working at the constituency office - and no ladies toilets on the floor where the office was.

Ms Goodneough also claims she needed flexible working hours due to her condition - but was told she could not have it.

But Stuart Brittenden, representing independent MP Ms Onasanya, said: “The issue goes to the choice of the Eco Innovation Centre as the base for her constituency office. She could not cater for every known disability of combination of disabilities. It would pose an impossible burden on the employer.”

Mr Brittenden said what Ms Goodenough was arguing was for Ms Onasanya to move her entire office to accommodate Ms Goodenough’s needs - something which was not possible, given the licence to take up the office had only just been signed by Ms Onasanya and her team.

The tribunal, which started yesterday (Wednesday), heard it could have been possible for Ms Goodenough to work on the ground floor which had close access to a ladies toilet. Ms Goodenough said on Wednesday she would have thought that was discriminatory, as she would have been working alone.

Mr Brittenden said it would have been possible for office manager Robert Grayston to work on the ground floor with Ms Goodenough - to which the former case worker said it was the first time she had heard about that suggestion.

The tribunal had heard Ms Goodenough say because of her conditions she had wanted to work ‘when she could,’ asking for a 20 hour part time week - which had been agreed - but working five hours a day on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

But Mr Brittenden said it simply was ‘not practicable’ as Ms Onasanya needed cover in the office on Mondays and Tuesdays between 9am and 5pm.

He said: “This was not an academic need, it’s a very real need. Ms Goodenough has accepted her requirements were incompatible with that.”

Ms Goodenough, who is representing herself, questioned why she had been employed given she had made it clear from the outset she needed close access to a toilet and flexible hours.

She said: “In my application I stipulated all the requirements I would need. I was given a job interview on that basis and offered the job on that basis.

“If my needs could not be accommodated why was I offered the job in the first place?”

Judge Michael Ord adjourned the case until 11am tomorrow (Friday) when he will announce the panel’s decision.

Ms Onasanya denies discrimination.

The case continues.

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