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State bodies account for nearly 30 per cent of employment payments upheld in 12 months

Despite accounting for just eight of 59 cases upheld at the Equality Tribunal, arms of the state accounted for €300,000 of the €1 million paid out since August 2012.

Definition of the word Discrimination underlined with red marker on white paper.
Definition of the word Discrimination underlined with red marker on white paper.
Image: Ivelin Kadkov via Shutterstock

IRISH COMPANIES HAVE paid out over €1 million in employment cases since last August, with eight cases against bodies of the state accounting for nearly €300,000 of payments upheld.

Last week’s disclosure that the Irish Prison Service had been ordered to pay €80,000 to a prison officer recovering from cancer brought the payments since last August to €298,000 for state employees. During that case, the tribunal found that there was no “clear and transparent” appointment procedure in place.

In August, it was revealed that the HSE West had been ordered to pay €70,000 to an employee that it had wrongly discriminated against.

In March, two volunteers of Offaly Civil Defence were awarded €1,200 each after both were dismissed on age grounds.

Six psychiatric nurses were awarded €3,000 each in December 2012, when it was found that they were denied access to premium-rate night shifts because of their gender.

A third-level institution was ordered to pay a complainant €45,000 in November 2012, after it was found to have discriminated on disability grounds and victimised her.

Kerry County Council was judged to have discriminated against a Polish applicant for a position of lifeguard in September 2012, while the Prison Service was ordered to pay €10,000 to an aggrieved employee the same month.

And, last August, a female teacher received €75,000 after she was dismissed from a school because, she claimed, she had complained about sexual harassment.

In total, €1,059,000 has been paid out in 59 cases since last August, an average payout of just shy of €18,000.

Despite cases involving the state accounting for such a large proportion of the money paid out, HR sources say that it would not be fair to say that the system is being taken for a ride.

“You have to remember that the state employs a lot of people, for a start,” said one HR solicitor, who did not wish to be named.

“It’s not a case that institutions of the state are run badly, but sometimes it’s hard to be sure that procedure is being followed.

At the end of the day, even if you came up with the best HR procedures, if a supervisor victimises or bullies a staff member, there’s not much you can do until it has been reported.

Generally, companies follow HR best practice, the solicitor says, but problems are abundant.

“You’d be surprised at the amount of companies that don’t do simple things. Some don’t have grievance procedures, some don’t have policies for bullying or harassment and some don’t even give contracts.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if many of the companies in these tribunals didn’t have the same problems.”

Read: HSE West ordered to pay €70,000 to woman it discriminated against

Read: Prison officer recovering from cancer awarded €80,000 in employment tribunal case

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