An Indian nurse at Dublin's Beaumont Hospital who alleged racial discrimination after being passed over for promotion 11 times, has brought a legal challenge over the dismissal of her complaint by the Workplace Relations Commission.
The High Court proceedings by Somy Thomas, of Artane, Dublin, arise from a rejection by the commission of a complaint brought on her behalf by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (Inmo) in 2016.
In her complaint, it was stated that Ms Thomas had been a staff nurse at Beaumont since 2004, completed a post-graduate diploma in respiratory nursing and was undertaking a masters in the same subject. It was stated that she applied for specialist and management jobs at every opportunity but was overlooked or refused.
The complaint said that when she raised the issue of racial discrimination, the hospital did not accept any responsibility and suggested the problem did not lie with it but rather with the overseas nurses and the claimant.
The Inmo set out the history of the jobs Ms Thomas had applied for and noted that she had more overall experience, specialised experience and qualifications than the successful candidates who, with one exception, were all Irish.
Her counsel Shane Manus Quinn BL told Mr Justice Seamus Noonan that the commission's adjudication officer, John Tierney, had "bizarrely" dismissed the complaint of racial discrimination without hearing any evidence on behalf of Ms Thomas, who made clear to him that she wished to give evidence.
The court was told Mr Tierney opened the hearing on July 5th, 2017 and asked the sides if they had any witnesses. The hospital said it had some witnesses and Mr Tierney asked them to leave the room, saying their evidence would be heard later. It is claimed Mr Tierney then asked the sides to open their submissions, which Ms Thomas says was done on her behalf by an Inmo representative.
Out of time
The hospital, as part of its submissions, raised an issue as to whether the complaint was out of time. It was claimed that Mr Tierney said he wanted to check out the case law on that point and adjourned the hearing, saying a full day would be set aside to hear evidence of the witnesses and other evidence, and the sides would be informed of that date.
Mr Quinn said some months passed after which a chain of emails were exchanged enquiring about when the case would resume and raising concerns about the delays. Ms Thomas was later informed that no second date was being fixed and Mr Tierney proposed to issue a determination of the complaint. Ms Thomas said the delays had a deleterious effect on her health.
Mr Tierney’s determination, issued on April 10th last stated, from the evidence presented at the hearing, that it was not possible to conclude Ms Thomas was discriminated against on grounds of race and dismissed her complaint.
Mr Quinn said that determination was “bizarre”. It found against the hospital’s claim the complaint was out of time but proceeded to decide there was no evidence to support the complaint when no evidence had been heard.
Mr Justice Noonan said he was satisfied to grant the ex parte (one side only represented) application for leave for judicial review and, pending the outcome of that, would stay an appeal by Ms Thomas before the Labour Court against the WRC decision.
He adjourned the matter to October.