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Job sex bias plea doctor gets £50,000 in award

By MARTHA KEARNS ONE of the highest Labour Court discrimination awards was made yesterday to a female doctor rejected for a consultant post...

ONE of the highest Labour Court discrimination awards was made yesterday to a female doctor rejected for a consultant post at two Dublin hospitals.

Dr Noreen Gleeson, awarded £50,000, claimed discriminating remarks were made at the interview for a consultant post at the Rotunda and Mater Hospitals.

Also, she lost out on the job to a ``high flier'' male doctor who was ``not as qualified, had less experience and was less suitable.''

Speaking about work experience she was asked ``was that the time you had your babies'' and she was also asked would she work voluntarily in the sexual assault unit: a question not put to the male interviewees. When she said she would not, one of the interview board members commented ``that's fine, sink the sisters.''

Dublin-based Dr Gleeson, who was represented by the Equality Authority, said the case would ``advance the cause of female doctors in Irish medicine in a very significant way.'' She has asked the two hospitals to send the £50,000 award directly to three charities she has yet to name.

Both the Rotunda and Mater hospitals have said they will not be appealing the decision and refused to comment further.

Dr Gleeson was one of five candidates, three women and two men, interviewed in January 1996 for the consultant obstetrician/gynaecologist post shared by both hospitals.

She claimed discrimination to an employment appeals tribunal but her claim was rejected. She appealed to the Labour Court with Equality Authority support and her case was heard in January this year. The ruling was returned yesterday.

It said the remark about the time the applicant ``had her babies'' and the ``sink your sisters'' comment clearly identified Dr Gleeson by reason of her sex and could give rise to a prima facie finding of discrimination.


The ruling added that the hospitals' main justification for appointing the male above Dr Gleeson was he was a ``high flier'' but no satisfactory supporting arguments were made to substantiate this.

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Equality Authority spokeswoman Mary McKeon said the court also took into account the fact no specific qualifications needed for the job were outlined by the hospitals before the interview, adding: ``The case shows discrimination in employment is ongoing.''

One ground of appeal by Dr Gleeson was a claimed ethos within the medical profession to appoint male consultants to hospital posts. Less than 5pc of obstetrics and gynaecology consultants were women, the court was told.

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