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Chapter Three outlines a wide range of social and structural barriers that may discourage legal claims and explores the available data on the effectiveness of equality legislation in practice. Even where national measures are adopted, it is unclear how effective they are in practice, as states have generally failed to gather information on the operation of disability harassment law. The chapter begins with an overview of the barriers to making equality and disability harassment complaints, followed by a discussion of the success rates for equality claims, including harassment claims. The chapter argues that even where legislation is adopted to address disability harassment, a wide range of social and structural barriers may discourage legal complaints. Furthermore, even where disability harassment claims are brought, the available evidence suggests that the rate of success is not high. Relatively little work has been done to establish the reasons for this, though general research on equality claims may be indicative. The chapter therefore highlights the importance of continued monitoring and research, as well as the need for disaggregated disability equality data.

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Human Rights in Practice

Disabled people report high levels of harassment worldwide, often based on intersectional characteristics such as race, gender and age. However, while #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter have highlighted ongoing experiences of sexual and racial harassment, disability harassment has received little attention.

This book focuses on legal measures to combat disability harassment at work. It sets disability harassment in its international context, including its human rights framework, and confronts the lack of empirical information by evaluating the Irish legal framework in practice.

It explores the capacity of the law to address intersectional harassment, particularly that faced by disabled women, and outlines the barriers to effective legal solutions.

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This chapter highlights the difficulty in achieving effective vindication of human rights at the national level. It argues that while human rights frameworks may offer detailed guidance for combatting disability harassment at work, these are not always effective when implemented in national legislation. Differences between human rights frameworks may potentially lead to gaps in implementation, but without adequate monitoring and data, it is difficult to know what is happening on the ground. This chapter therefore argues not only for revised national frameworks that are in compliance with human rights requirements, but also for continued monitoring and increased transparency to enable barriers to be identified and addressed, as well as for positive employer duties to combat disability harassment at source.

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This chapter outlines the social and legal context for disability harassment in Ireland. It highlights similarities between disability harassment rates in Ireland and internationally, and outlines the key legal provisions on disability harassment at work contained in the Employment Equality Acts 1998–2021. The chapter argues that, while Irish law complies with European Union requirements under the Framework Employment Directive, it fails to satisfy the requirements of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in relation to intersectional discrimination.

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This chapter outlines the human rights framework for addressing disability harassment. It focuses particularly on three of the most significant instruments for addressing disability harassment at work in the European and global contexts. These are the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Framework Employment Directive in the European Union and the International Labour Organisation Violence and Harassment Convention 2019. The chapter demonstrates the importance increasingly accorded in human rights to intersectional analysis, particularly in relation to gender, though also encompassing other intersecting characteristics, such as race and disability. It also highlights some important gaps in protection against harassment for persons with disabilities. Finally, the chapter explores the potential of the International Labour Organisation convention to advance protection from work-related disability harassment.

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This chapter provides an overview of key issues and concepts addressed in the book. It explores the nature of disability harassment and its interaction with harassment of other kinds. While much disability harassment derives from the othering, stigmatization and social exclusion of persons with disabilities, multiple and intersectional forms of harassment are also highly prevalent. The chapter outlines both the prevalence of disability harassment and its impact in the work context. It demonstrates that disability harassment constitutes a serious problem both within and outside of employment, and that the response to disability harassment must encompass intersectional forms of harassment, including sexual harassment.

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This chapter evaluates the operation of Irish law in practice, considering primarily its ‘curative’ effectiveness (the extent to which law rectifies a previous injustice). Analysing all available disability harassment decisions under the Employment Equality Acts 1998–2021 from 1998 to 2020, it finds that very few cases go to hearing and that the success rate for claims is extremely low. It then explores the reasons for the success and failure of claims, the kinds of remedies awarded, and the implications of these findings. It concludes by arguing that notwithstanding the theoretical capacity of the Employment Equality Acts 1998–2021 to address much work-related disability harassment, the legislation has not been curatively effective in practice.

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This chapter considers what other jurisdictions might learn from the Irish experience. It begins by considering the international relevance of the Irish experience, and argues that this is extensive but not absolute, considering a range of significant factors. It then identifies a number of key lessons for combatting disability harassment at work. These relate to the effectiveness of disability harassment legislation in practice, the importance of facilitating and monitoring intersectional claims in national legislative frameworks, the need to address specific barriers that impede legislative effectiveness, and the need to supplement existing, individualistic approaches with positive employer duties to prevent disability harassment at work.

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