Deaf British diplomat sues after ministry 'withdrew post'

14th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

A British diplomat is suing the foreign ministry after it withdrew her posting to Kazakhstan on the grounds that her deafness made it too expensive, a rights group said Tuesday.

Jane Cordell accused the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of discrimination after it said it could not afford the 500,000-pound (600,000-euro, 770,000-dollar) cost of providing her with specialist interpreters who can use sign language.

In a summary of her case to the London employment tribunal, the 44-year-old said that by denying her the post of deputy ambassador in Astana, the ministry was "imposing a glass ceiling on the career prospects of the disabled."

"The FCO has a budget of 2.2 billion pounds a year and what they're asked for Jane is not much," Catherine Spain of Britain's Equality and Human Rights Commission, which is supporting Cordell's case, told AFP.

She said that British diplomats with children received grants towards private education, whereas Cordell had no offspring so was "actually pretty cheap."

Cordell became deaf after an accident in her youth.

She entered the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 2001 and was posted to the British embassy in Warsaw in 2006 where she was provided with interpreters or "lipspeakers" and won an award for championing the rights of the disabled.

Cordell said she was then offered the post of deputy head of mission in the Kazakh capital but it was subsequently withdrawn.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office defended its decision, saying it was "fully committed" to providing equal opportunities to disabled staff.

"In this case, we do not believe the adjustments that would have been required -- costing around half a million pounds over two years -- would be considered reasonable," a spokeswoman said in a statement.

A decision in the case is expected in November, Spain said.

It comes as British government departments face massive austerity cuts pledged by Prime Minister David Cameron's coalition, which took power in May, to tackle a record deficit.

© 2010 AFP

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