UCD President Andrew Deeks has confirmed the university is set to appeal a finding by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) that it discriminated against a member of staff on age grounds.

Dr Ann Cleary had brought a discrimination claim on the grounds of age and gender after failing to be promoted to Senior Lecturer in the 2013 faculty promotion competition. The WRC rejected the gender discrimination claim. UCD had firstly tried to argue her complaint was brought too late, to no success.

Stephen Bonnlander, the Equality Officer/Adjudication Officer of the WRC, noted that he initially postponed the hearing in order to try obtain further documents about the promotion competition. After both sides had argued back and forth over the contents of Cleary’s application, he had called a halt to the case to seek the anonymised applications of the other staff members who had applied for a promotion.

He noted that he had difficulty in obtaining these documents from UCD, who raised data protection concerns. UCD ‘did provide the application forms eventually, but they were so extensively redacted as to be useless for the purpose of establishing what kind of academic judgement was at work in the UCAAPT appeals process.’ Paragraph 25 stated, ‘to give an example of the level of redaction, all titles of theses, articles, books, names of expert committees served on etc. were blacked out, as were close to entire narratives of personal achievement.’

Bonnlander postponed the hearing and gave UCD 4 weeks’ to ‘re-submit the material in a less redacted form’, but they did not provide any additional material. He stated he was ‘satisfied that [he] gave the respondent every opportunity to put in a defence to the within claim, with as much protection against legal exposure in other fora as the provisions of the Employment Equality Acts can provide. The respondent did not do so. Therefore, on the basis of the evidence available, the complainant is entitled to succeed.’

The WRC made two orders. Firstly, Cleary was to be retrospectively promoted to Senior Lecturer from the 15th February 2015, and she was to receive €30,000 in compensation as ‘redress for the infringement’ of her rights.

UCD Responds

President Andrew Deeks addressed the issue as the main topic in yesterday’s Presidential Bulletin to staff. Deeks noted to staff that ‘you may have read reports in the press on Monday that the Workplace Relations Commission made a decision that UCD “did discriminate against [a former UCD faculty member] on the ground of age, also in terms of access to promotion”.’

Deeks commented ‘I can assure you that we do not accept this finding, and the University is to appeal the decision to the Labour Court. We will only promote faculty members in accordance with the promotion policy approved by Academic Council and Governing Authority.’

‘Our academic promotion process is merit-based and in line with international best practice, recognising impact and achievement of faculty across three categories: Teaching & Learning; Research, Scholarship & Innovation; and Contribution to school, college, university, and the wider community. Age and gender play no part in the process, and achievement is measured relative to opportunity. The current process is meeting the cascading gender targets proposed in the HEA Gender Equality Report.’

Deeks concluded by thanking colleagues who have run the faculty promotion process over the years, stating he knows that ‘each and every one of you is committed to ensuring that the decisions made are fair and equitable and in line with international standards.’

The verdict of the WRC is available here.


Cian Carton – Editor