Intel claims court wrongly refused to admit new evidence

Manager alleges discrimination following return to work after pregnancy

Marie Cunningham leaving the Four Courts yesterday. Photograph: Collins

Marie Cunningham leaving the Four Courts yesterday. Photograph: Collins

Wed, May 21, 2014, 01:00

Computer giant Intel has claimed the Labour Court wrongly refused to admit new evidence in a case where one of its managers alleged she was discriminated against when she returned to work after pregnancy.

Marie Cunningham, who worked with Intel from 1997, brought a case to the Equality Tribunal in 2012 claiming the company failed to restore her to her human resources role as “greater Europe region workforce mobility manager”, or an equivalent position, when she returned from maternity leave in 2008.

She claimed she was discriminated against under the Maternity Protection Act and also suffered harassment and stress.

After the tribunal rejected her case, she appealed to the Labour Court which had heard all the evidence and was hearing submissions when Intel sought to introduce further evidence and its application was refused.

Intel subsequently brought High Court proceedings claiming the Labour Court had wrongly refused to reconstitute itself and rehear the case.

Alternatively, it wants orders overturning the court’s refusal to allow in new evidence and permitting a re-examination of Ms Cunningham before the Labour Court issues its determination.

Opening Intel’s case yesterday, Brian Murray SC said that as a result of new claims raised during submissions by Ms Cunningham, including in relation to how her health was affected by alleged harassment, Intel wanted to further cross-examine her and to introduce another witness to rebut her claims.

This included re-examination of issues in relation to claims she suffered stress and depression as a result of Intel’s behaviour even before her return to work in August 2008, counsel said. Intel claimed she had never told the company of this but she said she had informed it.

Mr Murray said these allegations went to the credibility of Ms Cunningham which needed to be tested in further evidence to the Labour Court.

The refusal of the court to allow this, or to recuse itself and rehear the case anew, prejudiced the company’s ability to have all of the issues properly agitated, he said. The court is opposing Intel’s application. Ms Cunningham, a notice party representing herself, also objected to Intel’s lawyers being allowed to re-examine her.

She has been on paid sick leave since December 2008 due to stress.

Intel denies her claims of discrimination and says she was returned to work in a suitable role with no negative impact on her. The hearing continues before Ms Justice Marie Baker.