€825,000 awarded in gender discrimination claim

In a recent case before the High Court, Byrne v Minister for Defence & Ors, a female army captain was awarded just under €825,000 on foot of a 2016 judicial review of the Defence Force’s decision to exclude her from a promotion process. The High Court held that the claimant had been discriminated against on the ground of gender as she was not informed of the promotional opportunities available or given the opportunity to present her case to the interview board.

In November 2012, the employee went on maternity leave and subsequently took additional maternity leave. While she was on additional maternity leave, four male engineers in her cohort were promoted. In making the award, the judge held that the claimant was excluded from the promotional process as a result of her being on maternity leave.

The compensation awarded is made up of future army pension and gratuity payments and compensation for loss of anticipated income from overseas army services. In addition, as the award is taxable, the judge doubled the award to take account of the tax payment due.

This ruling reminds employers to ensure that all employees on maternity leave are also made aware of any internal recruitment or promotional opportunities. It is important that companies have fair, clear and consistent procedures in place to deal with how employees are rewarded and promoted to ensure they do not fall foul of the law.

For further information on equality, you can consult the SFA guideline or contact Ciara McGuone, SFA Executive, on 01 605 1668 or ciara.mcguone@sfa.ie

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