Prison officer told he was 'no spring chicken' gets €80,000
THE Irish Prison Service (IPS) has been ordered to pay a middle-aged warder €80,000, after a tribunal found he was victimised and discriminated against on the basis of age and disability when he was passed over for promotion.
The guard, who is now 50, was 48 and battling cancer when he applied for a promotion to the position of acting assistant chief officer at Dublin's Mountjoy Prison.
He was told he was working with "dinosaurs" and "no spring chicken" when he applied for the post, according to a decision by the Equality Tribunal.
The officer, who continues to work for the service, told the tribunal that he was the eldest of 17 candidates for the position, but he was not included in the selection panel when he applied for the post on July 1, 2010.
The age of the other candidates ranged from 29 to 46.
The officer said he was given no reason for his exclusion from the panel despite his 12 years' experience as a prison officer at both Wheatfield Prison and later Mountjoy Prison.
He worked "in virtually every role and post as an officer and as a supervisor at Mountjoy" and had never received a negative report", the tribunal heard.
He scored 41 out of 45 in a performance assessment when he previously applied for the same position in 2008 and made it to the final interview, the tribunal heard.
After being diagnosed with a malignant melonoma in May 2009, he returned to work in September following successful treatment for the skin cancer.
He asked to be transferred to the prison's medical unit so he would not have to climb stairs as he recovered from the illness.
When he asked the chair of the selection panel why he wasn't included, the officer claimed he was asked why he expressed an interest in the post "as he was working in the medical unit with the 'dinosaurs' and he was 'no spring chicken' himself".
The prison officer also claimed that the same man told him his health was an issue.
The officer also claimed that he was "micromanaged" and otherwise victimised by his employer after he sought redress through the Equality Tribunal.
The IPS denied age was a factor in denying the officer the promotion.
It denied comments were made about "dinosaurs" and "spring chickens" or that the officer's health was a factor in omitting him from the selection panel.
However, equality officer Marian Duffy found that there was a "manifest irrationality" and "evidence of unfairness" in the selection process.
She said the prison officer did establish a case of age discrimination and victimisation which "the respondent has failed to rebut".
She also found that the officer's illness was a factor in the selection process and he was "treated less favourably" as a result.
She ordered the IPS to pay the officer the maximum penalty of two years' pay for discriminatory treatment, plus two years' pay as compensation for victimisation.
A spokesman for the Irish Prison Service said it would not be commenting on the case.