Socially Constructed Hierarchies of Impairments: The Case of Australian and Irish Workers’ Access to Compensation for Injuries

Posted: 4 Dec 2017

See all articles by Paul Harpur

Paul Harpur

University of Queensland - T.C. Beirne School of Law

Ursula Connolly

School of Law, NUI Galway

Peter Blanck

Syracuse University - Burton Blatt Institute

Date Written: November 27, 2017

Abstract

Objectives: Socially constructed hierarchies of impairment complicate the general disadvantage experienced by workers with disabilities. Workers with a range of abilities categorized as a “disability” are likely to experience less favourable treatment at work and have their rights to work discounted by laws and institutions, as compared to workers without disabilities. Value judgments in workplace culture and local law mean that the extent of disadvantage experienced by workers with disabilities additionally will depend upon the type of impairment they have. Rather than focusing upon the extent and severity of the impairment and how society turns an impairment into a recognized disability, this article aims to critically analyse the social hierarchy of physical versus mental impairment.

Methods: Using legal doctrinal research methods, this paper analysis how Australian and Irish workers’ compensation and negligence laws regard workers with mental injuries and impairments as less deserving of compensation and protection than like workers who have physical and sensory injuries or impairments.

Results: This research finds that workers who acquire and manifest mental injuries and impairments at work are less able to obtain compensation and protection than workers who have developed physical and sensory injuries of equal or lesser severity. Organizational cultures and governmental laws and policies that treat workers less favourably because they have mental injuries and impairments perpetuates unfair and artificial hierarchies of disability attributes.

Conclusions: We conclude that these “sanist” attitudes undermine equal access to compensation for workplace injury as prohibited by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Keywords: Mental injury, Discrimination, Workers' Compensation

Suggested Citation

Harpur, Paul David and Connolly, Ursula and Blanck, Peter, Socially Constructed Hierarchies of Impairments: The Case of Australian and Irish Workers’ Access to Compensation for Injuries (November 27, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3079772

Paul David Harpur (Contact Author)

University of Queensland - T.C. Beirne School of Law ( email )

Brisbane, Queensland 4072
Australia

Ursula Connolly

School of Law, NUI Galway ( email )

Newcastle Road
Galway
Ireland

Peter Blanck

Syracuse University - Burton Blatt Institute ( email )

United States

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