Thursday 23 January 2020

Indian nurse at Beaumont Hospital alleges racial discrimination after she was passed over for promotion 11 times

Beaumont Hospital
Beaumont Hospital

Tim Healy

An Indian nurse at Beaumont Hospital who alleged racial discrimination after being passed over for promotion eleven times has brought a legal challenge over the dismissal of her complaint.

The High Court judicial review proceedings by Somy Thomas, of Artane, Dublin, arise from a determination of the Workplace Relations Commission rejecting a complaint brought on her behalf by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) in late 2016.

In her complaint, it was stated Ms Thomas is a staff nurse who has worked at Beaumont since 2004, who has completed a post-graduate diploma in respiratory nursing and is undertaking a masters in the same.

It was stated she has applied for specialist and management jobs at every opportunity but was overlooked or refused. The complaint said, when she complained of racial discrimination, the hospital did not accept any responsibility and suggested the problem did not lie with it but rather with the overseas nurses and the claimant.

The INMO set out in detail the history of the jobs she had applied for and noted she has more overall experience, specialised experience and qualifications than the successful candidates for promotion who, with one exception, were all Irish.

Her counsel Shane Manus Quinn BL told Mr Justice Seamus Noonan earlier today Ms Thomas is a highly qualified and experienced staff nurse.

He said a WRC adjudication officer, John Tierney, “bizarrely” dismissed the complaint of racial discrimination without hearing any evidence on behalf of Ms Thomas who had made clear to Mr Tierney she wished to give evidence. 

The court was told the AO had opened the hearing on July 5th 2017 and asked the sides if they had any witnesses. The hospital said it had some witnesses and the AO asked those to leave the room, saying their evidence would be heard later.

It is claimed Mr Tierney then asked the sides to open their submissions and Ms Thomas said that was done on her behalf by her INMO representative. The hospital, as part of its submissions, raised an issue whether the complaint was out of time.

It was claimed Mr Tierney said he wanted to check out the case law on that point and adjourned the hearing, saying a full day would be set aside to hear evidence of the witnesses and other evidence and the sides would be informed of that date.

Mr Quinn said some months passed after which a chain of emails passed between the INMO representative for Ms Thomas enquiring about when the case would resume and raising concerns about the delays. They were later informed no second date was being fixed and Mr Tierney proposed to issue a determination of the complaint.

Ms Thomas said the delays had a deleterious effect on her health.

Mr Tierney’s determination issued on April 10th 2018 stated, from the evidence presented at the hearing, it was not possible to conclude Ms Thomas was discriminated against on grounds of race and dismissed her complaint.

Mr Quinn said that determination was “bizarre”. It found against the hospital’s claim the complaint was out of time but proceeded to decide there was no evidence to support the complaint when no evidence had been heard.

Mr Justice Noonan said he was satisfied to grant the ex parte (one side only represented) application for leave for judicial review and, pending the outcome of that, would stay an appeal by Ms Thomas before the Labour Court against the WRC decision.  He adjourned the matter to October.

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