Sunday 17 December 2017

Intel manager claims computer giant wants ‘second bite of cherry’ in discrimination case

Intel manager Marie Cunningham leaving court today after
Intel manager Marie Cunningham leaving court today after
The Intel plant in Leixlip. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

Tim Healy

A WORKFORCE manager with Intel Ireland has urged the High Court not to give the computer multinational a "second bite at the cherry" by allowing it to reopen evidence into alleged harassment and gender discrimination.

Marie Cunningham said this would mean a further delay in the five years since she first brought her discrimination case in which she alleged the Kildare-based firm failed to restore her to the same position she held prior to going on maternity leave in 2007.  She also alleged she was bullied and harassed on her return to work before going out on stress-related sick leave in December 2008. 

Intel denies her claims of harassment and says she was restored to an equivalent position at the same grade and rate of pay.

Her complaint went before an Equality Tribunal, which rejected her claim, and she then appealed to the Labour Court  which heard evidence and was almost due to give its determination before Intel brought High Court proceedings over the way the appeal was being conducted.

Intel claimed the Labour Court was wrong in law to refuse to allow it re-examine Ms Cunningham and bring in new evidence in relation to her health concerning the harassment claim.

The Labour Court, while saying it would permit the introduction of new evidence which was not available at the time witnesses were giving evidence, this would be limited and would not involve the re-examination of witnesses. Ms Cunningham, who was a notice party in the proceedings, also opposed the application.

Today following the completion of submissions from Intel, the Labour Court and Ms Cunningham, Ms Justice Marie Baker said she hoped to give her decision as soon as possible.

Ms Cunningham, representing herself, earlier told the judge she did not want to make formal submissions because participation as a notice party meant she could be liable for a costs order.  After counsel for Intel said it would not seek costs against her if she did so, she then made a submission.

She said if the High Court permits Intel to re-open the Labour Court hearing, it will be able to "kick the can further down the road" in a case that has gone on for five-and-a-half years.  "Justice is being delayed to a point where is almost being denied," she said.

The evidence had been completed and it would be an abuse of process if Intel were allowed to re-open the case, she said.

The issues which were addressed at that hearing had been narrowed on consent between the sides, she said.

Intel had already tried to delay, "muddy the waters" and claim it was not being afforded fair procedures, she said.   She agreed with the Labour Court's counsel Dermot Gleeson that Intel was "looking for a second bite at the cherry".

Mr Gleeson, in his submissions, argued the Labour Court was quite entitled to make a decision which did not require it to "go over old ground".   Its decision to limit the re-opening of evidence was proportionate and reasonable, he said.

Brian Murray SC, for Intel, said in reply that the limitation on evidence was not a restraint but a negation of his client's rights for which there could be no justification in law.

He also said Intel  employed a large number of women and takes its obligations under employment law very seriously. 

It was all too tempting to see this as a claim between the complainant and a large multinational with deep pockets but it also involved allegations against former colleagues who have rights too which should be determined in accordance with law, he said.

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