An ex-manager at a satellite radar components maker in Limerick who accused its management of anti-Irish bias in allocating stock options has lost his discrimination claim.
Keith Kerley, the former general manager of a factory in Limerick run by the British firm Arralis, claimed it gave UK staff on his level double the stock options he was offered – and that he was told “take it or leave it” by its chief executive when he complained.
In a decision this week, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) rejected his complaint under the Employment Equality Act 2000, in which he had alleged discrimination on the grounds of race and constructive dismissal.
The complaint had been denied by Arralis.
Mr Kerley told the WRC last week that he thought he was in line to receive an allocation of 3,000 shares after a presentation at a management meeting by the firm’s CEO, Mike Gleaves, in summer 2019.
But when stock option letters were sent out to staff the following spring, he said he was surprised to be allocated just 750.
Mr Kerley’s solicitor, Siobhán McGowan, said an engineer who she said was the holder of a UK passport and “the only non-Irish member of the Limerick office” received 1,500.
Her client said in his evidence that the engineer was from the North and it was his belief that the man was a dual passport holder.
The complainant gave evidence that a fellow department head based in the Swindon office in England who he considered to be his “peer” in the company got an allocation of 1,500.
“I was basically told that those stock options weren’t standard, that your position didn’t matter, it was performance. I’d had only an upward trajectory. I was one of the longer-serving staff with four years’ service – it wasn’t really explained properly,” he said.
The company denied discriminating against any staff in the Irish branch and maintained that the worker who was presented with the higher share allocation in Limerick held an Irish passport.
In evidence, Mr Gleaves said the stock plan presented in May 2019 was only a proposal at that stage and remained subject to change – and that stock options were eventually offered to staff on the basis of their service.
Mr Kerley said “everything went pear-shaped” after he was informed of a plan to close the Limerick operation in January 2019 and that there was a breakdown in relations between himself and Mr Gleaves.
He claimed he was “demoted” during the restructuring by having the duties of general manager in Limerick removed and being made answerable to a sales and marketing manager based in the UK.
Mr Gleaves said the Limerick operation was loss-making and that Hong Kong investors in the firm wanted it shut down.
He denied that Mr Kerley had been demoted.
The firm’s solicitor, Anna Butler of Peninsula Law, argued that he had never raised a formal grievance about his role, nor the shares issue – and resigned before taking up the offer of having an external consultant mediate.
“The case put forward by the complainant is that he was unfavourably treated in relation to a proposal which never crystallised and that the treatment was on the basis of a person who had both his own and another nationality,” wrote adjudicating officer Conor Stokes in a decision just published.
It was “hard to conclude” Mr Kerley had raised any more of a case than “mere speculation”.
“Having regard to all the written and oral evidence in relation to this matter, my decision is that the complainant has not been discriminated against by the respondent,” he wrote.