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University ordered to pay €35k after ruling finds lecturer (55) discriminated against due to age

The academic claimed that a less qualified female colleague 15 years younger than her was chosen for the post.

Image: Shutterstock/fongbeerredhot

A UNIVERSITY HAS been ordered to pay €35,000 to a 55-year old lecturer after it was found to have discriminated against her on the basis of her age when not selecting her for a Dean of Learning and Teaching post.

In the case, the academic took the discrimination case against the un-named university after claiming that a less qualified female colleague 15 years younger than her was chosen for the post.

In her ruling, WRC Adjudication Officer, Marie Mulcahy found that the lecturer’s claim of age discrimination was well founded and has ordered the college to pay her €35,000 – or six months salary – for the distress suffered as a result of this discriminatory act.

Mulcahy based her ruling in part on the proximity of the complainant’s qualifications and experience to the Deanship as compared with the relative remoteness of the successful candidate’s experience from the post.

The complainant in the case – who obtained her PhD in 2003 – attained a number of awards before applying for the post and they included eight academic awards between 1999 and 2014.

The lecturer’s representatives told the WRC that the probability of promotion decreases with age in the university. 

They pointed out that the University Executive has 11 members, 4 of whom are female with 3 female deans all in their 40s. 

They also stated that the lecturer was 55 years of age when she applied for the post. 

The submission stated: “Therefore, the complainant was in the category least likely to be promoted. A large number of female academics remain at the lowest permanent lecturer grade into their 50s or until retirement at age 65.”


A former president of the university gave evidence at the WRC hearing and stated that he saw an injustice in the failure of the university to appoint the complainant to the position of Dean.

The former president stated that he couldn’t accept that the successful candidate had equivalent leadership experience or responsibilities as the complainant. 

The former college president stated that he considered the complainant’s academic achievements to be remarkable, her scholarships to be remarkable pointing out that she completed her PhD in three years.

A second witness for the complainant, a professor, travelled back from the US to give  evidence as she had strong views on the complainant’s suitability for the post.

She had sat on the selection committee for the post that the complainant missed out on.

The successful candidate got the job by majority decision and the professor disagree with the decision. 

She stated that the complainant had fulfilled the role of Dean of Teaching and Learning while it had been vacant since 2011 even though she didn’t have the title of Dean.

The complainant in a supplemental submission stated that all appointments of female Deans made by the current president have been women in their 40s.

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In its submission, the university denied that the complainant was discriminated on grounds of age by reason of her non-appointment to the position of Dean of Teaching and Learning. 

It stated that a fair selection process resulted in the appointment of the most suitable candidate.

The university stated that the successful candidate scored a higher score in two of the three categories evaluated. 

The university stated that the successful candidate was found to have a strong vision, leadership and governance experience and had experience as acting head of an academic department.

It also pointed out that the successful candidate was found by the selection panel to demonstrate the ability to offer and deliver a strong strategic academic vision for change. 

It stated that the age of candidates is not disclosed during the application and selection process.

The college stated that contention of the complainant that the successful candidate was less qualified and has not been involved in university-wide teaching and learning initiatives and is junior to her ignores the totality of the skill set and criteria for the position

About the author:

Gordon Deegan

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