€55k sex bias payout for female scientists who were told male colleague was 'top dog'
Published 06/07/2016 | 10:44
TWO women have settled sex discrimination cases against a agriculture quango in Northern Ireland for £47,000 (€55,000).
The scientists complained they were shouted at without justification and treated less favourably than a male colleague at the Agri-Food and Bio-Sciences Institute (AFBI) in Belfast.
Carole Daly, 29, from Belfast, and Hollie Lewis, 31, from Bangor, alleged they were subjected to discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation while working as scientific officers at the research organisation.
They said a senior colleague described their male counterpart as the "top dog".
Ms Daly said: "I was very pleased to be working in a scientific job, but I never envisaged I would experience the type of treatment that I had to endure.
"I felt undermined and undervalued."
She began work at the Institute in 2009 but complained of incidents and treatment she received in the laboratory at Newforge Lane, where she was placed on her return to work from maternity leave in 2013.
Ms Lewis had worked in the Institute since 2004 and when she was transferred to Newforge in 2014 also questioned her treatment.
The Institute has paid Ms Daly £25,000 and Ms Lewis £22,500 in settlement of their cases and apologised for upset and distress. It is to review its policies.
The victims said when they complained repeatedly about the situation their concerns were not dealt with. Both women contacted more senior people in the Institute and eventually lodged formal grievances, but these were rejected.
They were on sick leave due to work-related stress and Ms Lewis subsequently left her job under a voluntary exit scheme. Ms Daly returned to work for AFBI in another department.
Ms Lewis said: "As a woman working in a technical and scientific role I was very upset to be treated so badly.
"The situation became so difficult it made me ill and I had to take time out from work.
"When I challenged this behaviour and tried to have the situation rectified, I felt nobody took me seriously."
Eileen Lavery, Equality Commission legal head, said the core message of 40 years of sex discrimination law should be reinforced.
"Women must be equal participants in all employment fields - and be confident that they will be treated with dignity and respect.
"It is the responsibility of all employers to ensure that, where individuals fail to live up to that standard, action is taken to deal with it effectively."