Council must pay €70k to worker sacked for preaching
A COUNTY council has been ordered to pay a former employee €70,000 in damages after it dismissed him for preaching Christianity.
Born Again Christian John McAteer was dismissed from South Tipperary County Council on July 30, 2010, after continually spreading the word of God to staff members, contractors and members of the public despite repeated warnings that it was against the council's policy to do so.
After receiving a series of verbal and written warnings about his conduct, Mr McAteer was suspended without pay for two months.
He was also compelled to attend six counselling sessions to help to control his compulsion to speak to people about his religious beliefs.
Mr McAteer, who had worked as a civil engineer with North Tipperary County Council for 10 years before moving to South Tipperary County Council in December 2007, said he had held the religious beliefs since 1990 and that the council knew this.
He said that he was sharing the word of Jesus and the Gospel with people, as it is a tenet of his religion. If he detected from a person's body language that he or she was not interested, he would change the conversation or walk away.
He said there was no question that he inappropriately forced his religious beliefs on any person to whom he spoke.
Mr McAteer added that after the first warning he never shared his faith with office staff, and said he was treated differently than other staff because his conversations were continually monitored.
The council submitted that the disciplinary procedures were followed and were invoked against the complainant when he failed to comply with instructions not to preach during working hours.
Equality officer Marian Duffy ruled that the council did discriminate against Mr McAteer on the grounds of his religion under Section 6 of the Employment Equality Act, and under Section 8 in relation to his conditions of his employment and dismissal.
In calculating the amount to award Mr McAteer, Ms Duffy said she took into account the fact that he had only managed to find part-time work since his dismissal. She said that she was "satisfied the effects of the dismissal were very serious".
A spokesman for the council said yesterday: "We would prefer not comment as we are considering our position in relation to an appeal and we are still in that time period."