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Settlement reached in Roller Derby discrimination complaint


Settlement reached in Roller Derby discrimination complaint

A roller derby competitor who claims she was subject to discrimination because of her hearing loss and dyslexia has received a settlement of more than $4000, belated national team jerseys, and an apology for comments made by the coach of the New Zealand Roller Derby Team.

Marcia Taylor (whose playing name is “Meat Train”) had been a member of Richter City Roller Derby in Wellington since 2012. In 2014, she trained with the New Zealand Roller Derby Team but was not selected for the Team which toured to the United States later that year.

Ms Taylor - who is hard of hearing and has dyslexia - says Team coach, Stacey Roper (playing name, “Pieces of Hate”), discriminated against her by failing to take reasonable steps to accommodate her disabilities. Ms Taylor says Ms Roper failed to offer assistance during written tests (including reader/writer assistance), failed to speak into a looped system for her hearing aid, and failed to speak directly to her or give her visual cues during training.

After the touring team was announced in October 2014, there was a discussion on Facebook about Ms Taylor’s non-selection. Ms Roper said, “What I do not like is that everyone has to walk on eggshells around someone because they have a disability”.

She also said Ms Taylor “did the best [she] could and I’m real sorry but its called a disability for a reason”.

Ms Taylor said Ms Roper’s comments and actions caused her “much embarrassment and shame”, and the ordeal was a “huge blow to her confidence”. She said she was made to feel like she was being set up to fail and that her hearing loss was an annoyance to Ms Roper and a liability to the team.

Ms Taylor complained about her treatment to the Human Rights Commission and subsequently applied to the Director of Human Rights Proceedings, Robert Kee, for legal representation.[1]

The Director agreed to provide representation to Ms Taylor, and she was represented by the Office of Human Rights Proceedings’ senior solicitor, Greg Robins.

The parties recently reached a settlement without proceedings being brought. As part of settlement, Ms Roper has paid Ms Taylor $4000 in compensation for emotional harm and $169 compensation for the purchase of a Team uniform. She has provided Ms Taylor with a letter of apology for the comments on social media and two official team jerseys that she was entitled to receive because she had trained for the team.

“I am very pleased with this result. It is a fair and appropriate outcome for both parties. It should serve to remind all organisations to accommodate people with different needs”, Mr Kee said. “The Human Rights Act affects all of us, including businesses, employers, landlords and – in this case – sporting organisations and their members.”

[1] The Director of Human Rights Proceedings provides legal representation to people who wish to take unlawful discrimination proceedings in the Human Rights Review Tribunal. The Office of Human Rights Proceedings is part of the Human Rights Commission crown entity, and shares resources with the Commission (such as Comms support). However, it is important to note, the Director and the staff of the Office carry out the Director’s duties independently of the Commission. Hence, the decisions and activities of the Director and his staff cannot be attributed to the Commission.


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