| 10.7°C Dublin

University to pay €30k for sacking researcher

Close

Dr Karen Duffy who was awarded €30,000 by the Employment Appeals Tribunal against NUI, Galway for unfair dismissal.

Dr Karen Duffy who was awarded €30,000 by the Employment Appeals Tribunal against NUI, Galway for unfair dismissal.

Dr Karen Duffy who was awarded €30,000 by the Employment Appeals Tribunal against NUI, Galway for unfair dismissal.

A UNIVERSITY has been ordered to pay €30,000 to a stem cell researcher who was unfairly dismissed.

Dr Karen Duffy had worked as a facilities manager at the GMP Facility at REMEDI in NUI, Galway since 2005. She told an employment appeals tribunal she was left feeling "ostracised" and excluded by colleagues after the unit she worked in failed a vital audit to obtain a licence to manufacture stem cells.

She was made redundant from her post at the university in 2012, shortly after the audit.

The tribunal heard that Dr Duffy lost her post after the university subsumed her role into a new post of operations manager for the facility. She claimed the new role was effectively advertising the job she already held. The university disputed this, insisting the main aim of the new post was to ensure the facility obtained a licence for stem cell manufacture in the future.

In July 2011 the facility underwent an audit by the Irish Medicines Board (IMB) in a bid to receive a licence to manufacture stem cells. Dr Duffy described the importance of the audit as akin to "having the Pope to tea".

However, the audit was unsuccessful and showed up a number of issues that needed to be addressed by the facility.

The main issues arose in the quality and production areas where "major deficiencies" were noted. Only minor issues were raised in Dr Duffy's area of facilities and equipment.

Dr Duffy said she noted a change in the facility following this audit and she was left feeling ostracised, was not kept informed of the day-to-day running of the facility and found it difficult to meet with people about the future of the facility.

She told the tribunal of two occasions when members of the facility had pizza and drinks or went to dinner where she was not invited. When she enquired from her supervisor as to why she was not invited, she was told that "she should have been".

"I was confused to know what was going on. I thought it might have been related to the outcome of the audit and maybe it was jealousy," she said.

In May 2012 she was informed that her role had been subsumed and she was being made redundant. She was the only member of the team made redundant. Attempts to find her a new role in the university proved fruitless.

The Tribunal heard that Dr Duffy had been praised by auditors from the IMB and had a good work record. The university has since secured the necessary licensing for stem cell manufacture. The tribunal found the university had acted unreasonably by offering no proper consultation or discussion with Dr Duffy.

"The GMP Facility at REMEDI continues to operate. The work, which comprised the claimant's role, continues to exist. Personnel who possessed shorter terms of service, and personnel who were employed after the claimant's dismissal, were retained. The respondent failed to justify why the claimant was selected for redundancy," it added.

Irish Independent