Wednesday 13 December 2017

University ordered to pay €81k to employee

Yesterday, Sarah Jane O'Callaghan, defending, told Judge Mary Ellen Ring that the trial was likely to take two weeks
Yesterday, Sarah Jane O'Callaghan, defending, told Judge Mary Ellen Ring that the trial was likely to take two weeks
Caroline Crawford

Caroline Crawford

A UNIVERSITY has been ordered to pay €81,000 to an employee who took a discrimination case against it.

Mary Dempsey claimed she was discriminated against by NUI, Galway on the grounds of gender, family status and disability. The tribunal upheld the gender and disability grounds – but dismissed the family status grounds.

Ms Dempsey was employed as a Temporary Teaching Appointment (TTA) in the Industrial Engineering department of NUI Galway on a series of rolling contracts since 1994.

However, she claimed she was treated less favourably than a male colleague and was persistently discriminated against.

The complaints ranged from being asked to grade examination scripts while she was on maternity leave, to changes in her contract of employment while she was on sick leave associated with her pregnancy. This move resulted in a demotion.

The tribunal heard that in June 2005 Ms Dempsey received a new contract of employment which removed her title of lecturer from the contract and changed some of her terms and conditions. She claims she was pressurised into accepting this downgraded contract while on sick leave.

As a result of these changes she was no longer recognised as a member of the academic staff, which effectively stalled her career prospects and left her unable to apply for promotion positions.

The tribunal heard how Ms Dempsey was working in a "male-dominated area" in the Industrial Engineering department, and that she was the only person at that time to seek maternity leave and to have had pregnancy-related illness.

She claimed there were very few women with permanent lecturer contracts in the five Engineering Departments, now the College of Engineering and Informatics COEI. Out of a total of 35 permanent lecturers in 2005 only two were female while in 2008 three out of 37 lecturers were female.

Ms Dempsey also alleged she was the only person in the department on rolling yearly contracts for such a long period of time despite the fact that she did the same work as a permanent male lecturer and her post was never advertised.

Equality officer Marian Duffy said it was "significant" that the post of junior lecturer occupied by the complainant was not advertised as other posts occupied by contract lecturers in the department were advertised.

She also noted that Ms Dempsey felt "under pressure" to work during her pregnancy-related illness and maternity leave as "she was led to believe that her contract might not be renewed if she did not do so".

She ordered the college to restore the title of lecturer to Ms Dempsey's contract and to provide her with a contract of employment with terms and conditions which puts her in the position she would have held but for the discrimination.

She also ordered the university to pay Ms Dempsey €81,000, the equivalent of one year's salary, in compensation for the effects of the discriminatory treatment.

Irish Independent

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