Prison officer gets €80,000 for discrimination and victimisation

Equality Tribunal says Irish Prison Service procedure for interview panel was ‘clearly deficient’

A prison officer has been awarded €80,000 by the Equality Tribunal. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

A prison officer has been awarded €80,000 by the Equality Tribunal. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Mon, Sep 16, 2013, 17:24

The Equality Tribunal has ordered that prison officer based at Mountjoy be paid €80,000 for discriminatory treatment and victimisation and criticised as “clearly deficient” the Irish Prison Service’s procedures for a promotion process.

The prison officer, who had been undergoing treatment for cancer, had applied for a promotion and had not been placed on the panel of those to be interviewed.

Equality officer Marian Duffy found the man had been discriminated against on the age and disability ground.

She also accepted the case set out by the complainant that he was victimised following the referral of his case to the Equality Tribunal. The tribunal awarded the officer €33,000 in respect of the discriminatory treatment and€47,000 in respect of victimisation.

It found the Prison Service’s selection process for the acting-up panel to be “clearly deficient” and said it did not comply with equality legislation.

Exercising her powers under section 82(e) of the Acts, the equality officer ordered the service to “ensure that a transparent fair selection process is adopted in all future competitions”.

It was also to ensure that the selection panel was trained in the process and that it set down in writing the criteria before embarking on the selection process.

She also ordered that it adopt a marking scheme and outline the weighting given under each element, and to ensure that notes were retained.

Separately, a former employee of Applus, which carries out the National Car Test, was awarded €20,000 compensation after he was discriminated against on age grounds.

Jack Furlong had been forced to leave his employment at the age of 65 on January 3rd 2010. Mr Furlong presented evidence to the tribunal that another employee had worked until the age of 70.

The reasons put forward by the company for retiring staff at age 65 included the efficient planning of departure and recruitment of staff and the importance of recruiting and promoting young people, including the importance this had for staff retention.

It also cited the option of avoiding physical examinations of staff across departments including in departments where health and safety issues would arise, such as employees engaged in car testing. It avoided “embarrassment and potential disputes relating to employee’s ability to perform their duties after age 65”.

The tribunal said the company did not support these contentions “with any kind of evidence”, including evidence as to why it was “specifically necessary to recruit young people instead of persons of all ages, or what role age plays in health and safety concerns for older staff”.

The tribunal also ordered Noxtad Ltd, trading as the Carlton Abbey Hotel, to pay former employee Virgiliu Mihalas €20,000 for constructive dismissal after he was racially abused by another member of staff.

Equality officer Orla Jones said that in making the award, she was mindful of the fact that the complainant had made several complaints to management about the harassment and that it was management’s failure to take any action to prevent or reverse such harassment which contributed to the constructive discriminatory dismissal.

In another case, the tribunal awarded €500 to a member of the Traveller community for discrimination against him on this ground by the construction company he worked for, C&M Construction Ltd.