26th Sep, 2020

Disabled woman claims she was prevented from working at Coventry University with her assistance dog

John Carlon 14th Nov, 2019 Updated: 14th Nov, 2019

A DISABLED worker at Coventry University is taking legal action against her employer after she claims she was prevented from working with the help of her assistance dog.

The 35-year-old woman, who works as an administration assistant in the university’s legal department, told The Observer she has autism, meaning she needs her assistance dog to deal with stressful situations.

She claimed: “My employer at Coventry University has denied access to my dog, after I recently disclosed to them that I have autism.

“By law he can go into public places and help me at work, but now I haven’t been allowed to go into work.”

She says she is not getting paid while away from work because she is on a zero-hours contract.

“They have told me they are consulting on how best to support me, but I have already told them how to support me and I have provided several doctor’s letters to explain that autism is a disability.

“I wouldn’t have a dog if I didn’t need him – he is highly trained to know if I am stressed – he will apply pressure if he senses I am having a melt-down.

“My dog is tasks-trained, he is well behaved and he is trained not to respond to distractions or fuss.”

She said her department told her not to come in to work for over a week, ending today (November 14).

“One of the university’s own solicitors, in our department, wrote to my employers to tell them they are in breach of the Equalities Act,” she claimed.

“I feel like I have been treated terribly. People make a lot of assumptions about autism, but I have informed the university I intend to bring my assistance dog.

“Their response was ‘it makes you look like you can’t do your job.’ They also said ‘maybe you should work less, or go part time’.”

The woman, who did not wish to be named, has worked for the university since August.

She has contacted the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service to claim compensation for loss of earnings and emotional distress.

“The university make such a reputation out of being inclusive, so when this happened I couldn’t believe it was Coventry University,” she said.

“The law is clear on equality for disability at work, and my dog is for my assistance – he has his jacket and vest to mark him out.

“If I have to I will go to an employment tribunal as I believe a have a strong case.”

Statistics released by Coventry University in January 2019 show five per cent of its workforce have a disability.

Responding to the allegation, a spokesperson for Coventry University said: “We give full and proper consideration to any requests for reasonable adjustments in line with the Equality Act 2010. We cannot comment on individual ongoing matters.”

Under workplace law employers must assess an assistance dog’s suitability to an employee’s role, seeking advice from assistance dog associations.

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