Garda on leave over alleged 'racial torment' challenges decision to reclassify illness
A garda who is out sick from work due to alleged bullying and racial abuse he has received from colleagues has launched a High Court challenge against a decision by the Garda Commissioner to reclassify his illness.
The action has been brought by Deming Gao, a native of China who is a naturalised Irish citizen, and who joined the gardai in 2008.
He has been stationed at Dun Laoghaire and Shankill Garda Stations, where he has been subjected to "prolonged and persistent bullying, harassment and racial torment", his counsel Mark Harty said.
Garda Gao brought these incidents to the attention of his superiors, and had spoken with a garda welfare officer.
When his colleagues learned of this meeting, Garda Gao was branded a rat and the mistreatment intensified, the court heard.
He was avoided, shunned, and isolated by other gardai who refused to communicate in a courteous, professional and respectful manner, it is alleged.
His religious beliefs, ethnic background, and personal and family values were ridiculed by a number of his colleagues, it is claimed.
After he relocated to Shankill, he continued to experience mistreatment from fellow members.
Mr Harty, instructed by Kilfeather & Company Solicitors, said in November 2016 Garda Gao was subjected to a verbal attack by a colleague.
He went to his doctor and was deemed unfit for work due to stress.
He also attended for assessment at the Garda Occupational Health Service.
Garda Gao's injury was classified as an injury on duty. However, in May 2017, he was informed in correspondence that the status of his injury had been changed to ordinary illness and backdated to the time he went out of work.
Correspondence from his employer stated the initial classification was issued in error.
No other reason or explanation has been given to Garda Gao for the reclassification.
The Commissioner has also sought the repayment of monies alleged overpaid to Garda Gao.
While no breakdown of the alleged over payments have been furnished to him, the Commissioner has commenced deducting monies from the nominal payments to him, it is claimed.
Counsel said his client sought to appeal the reclassification, but was informed in a letter sent last month that his sick leave remains classified as that of an ordinary illness.
Counsel said the commissioner has "no legal basis" to reclassify the injury.
No adequate reasons have been given for the decision, counsel added.
As a result of the reclassification, Garda Gao and his young family have suffered financially.
He is in receipt of a nominal weekly payment and is struggling to make his financial obligations.
In his action, he seeks an order quashing the the decision to reclassify his injury from being a work related injury to being ordinary illness, and that the original classification be restored.
He further seeks declarations that the reclassification of the injury was carried out in breach of natural or constitutional justice and that the Commissioner is not entitled to seek repayment of the alleged overpayment of wages.
Permission to bring the challenge was granted on an ex-parte basis by Mr Justice Seamus Noonan.
The judge made the matter returnable to a date in December.