Case Number: DEC-E2016-048. Workplace Relations Commission

CourtWorkplace Relations Commission
Date10 March 2016
Docket NumberDEC-E2016-048
PartiesSinead Brady -V- Cavan VEC And Virginia College
EMPLOYMENT EQUALITY ACTS DECISION NO. DEC-E2016-048 PARTIES Sinead Brady (Represented by Eilis Barry B.L instructed by IHREC) AND Cavan VEC (EE/2012/551) And Virginia College (EE/2012/552) (Represented by Mason Hayes Curran, Solicitors) File reference: EE/2012/551 & 552 Date of issue: 10th March 2016

HEADNOTES: Employment Equality Acts Sections 6 (2) (a) as amended by section 4 the Employment Equality Act 2004 Conditions of Employment-Gender-Discrimination Pregnancy-Harassment-Victimisation.

1 DISPUTE

1.1 This dispute concerns a claim by Ms Bradythat she was discriminated against by her employer on the grounds of gender and pregnancy contrary to section 6 (2) of the Employment Equality Acts in respect of access to promotion and grading under the terms of Section 8 (1) (d).

1.2 The complainant referred her claim to the Director of the Equality Tribunal on 18th October 2012 under the Employment Equality Acts. On 29th September 2015, in accordance with his powers under section 75 of the Acts, the Director delegated the case to me, Pat Brady, an Equality Officer, for investigation, hearing and decision and for the exercise of other relevant functions of the Director under Part VII of the Acts, on which date my investigation commenced. Submissions were received from both sides and in accordance with Section 79(1) of the Acts and as part of my investigation I proceeded to a hearing on October 1st 2015.

1.3 This decision is issued by me following the establishment of the Workplace Relations Commission on 1 October 2015, as an Adjudication Officer who was an Equality Officer prior to 1 October 2015, in accordance with section 83 (3) of the Workplace Relations Act 2015.

1.4 There are two respondents; Virginia College and what was then County Cavan VEC, (now ETB). However the case was presented as a single case and likewise the response to it. The VEC, (now ETB) is the de facto employer.

1.5 The complaint on the grounds of victimisation was withdrawn at the hearing.

2 COMPLAINANTS' SUBMISSION

2.1 The complainant is a qualified Guidance Counsellor holding an M.Ed. in Career Guidance and Counselling and separate postgraduate diplomas in Positive Behaviour Management, in Psychology and in Reality Focussed Brief Therapy. She has further training in relation to the management of bullying. She started work in Breifni College in 2005 as a Guidance Teacher. She transferred to Virginia College in September 2008.

2.2 The complaints fall into three broad categories, two significant strands of complaint and a third comprising a number of individual episodes. The first related to alleged harassment by her then Principal (henceforward K) initially during her tenure as a teacher in Breifne College, and continuing after her transfer to Virginia College in 2008 up until December 2011. The second main area concerns her treatment while on maternity leave in 2011 and 2012 mainly arising from proposals to make her post redundant and redeploy her to other teaching duties.

2.3 Thirdly, there are a number of specific episodes which she alleges indicate a ‘discriminatory bias’ on the part of Virginia College against pregnant employees.

2.4 Turning to the first category there were a series of examples of ‘inappropriate behaviour’ by her former principal, K which included his continuing to assert how he could assist her career. Detailed examples were given of serious incidents. However, the last in this sequence of incidents falls outside the time limits required by the Acts and in view of my conclusions below on this point further detail is unnecessary.

2.5 She further complains that despite being five months pregnant she had been put on ‘yard duty’ and felt exposed to danger in the course of a fight between students. Nothing was initially done until the matter was raised a second time with the Deputy-Principal.

2.6 The second batch of issues relates to the period of her pregnancy in 2011, the intrusions into her maternity leave, and the fact that the position she was offered following maternity leave was, in her submission, significantly different to the one she left. It involved either returning as a ‘class’ teacher of History and English or accepting some other, as at the time, unspecified redeployment to another school. Indeed she experienced some very considerable difficulty in getting further clarity on this point and eventually that option did not materialise.

2.7 Despite having to endure a difficult pregnancy she was contacted while on maternity leave about various aspects of a decision to make her post as a Guidance Counsellor redundant and require her to redeploy to other teaching duties for which she says she was not qualified.

2.8 In due course (May 12th...

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