Bullying expert takes case over alleged harassment

An international expert on bullying has himself claimed to be a victim of bullying in his job.

Professor Keith Sullivan has taken a case to the Employment Appeals Tribunal over the refusal of NUI Galway to grant him an extension to his employment after he reached his 65th birthday.

His legal team told the tribunal in Galway that such extensions were “habitually” given to other professors when they reached 65.

But NUIG has insisted such extensions only apply when a professor reaches 65 during an academic year and cannot be expected to walk away from his teaching duties or his involvement in a research project.

At the start of the hearing yesterday, the tribunal was asked to deal with a preliminary issue over what constituted “normal retirement age”. It heard that Prof Sullivan had applied for a year’s extension in August 13 – his 65th birthday fell on October 11 that year.

His contract of employment and a university statute both made it clear that a professor of good conduct who had fulfilled his duties would retire at 65, but could apply to continue in office for up to five years.

A lawyer for Prof Sullivan said that such applications were “habitually granted” to her client’s professor colleagues and evidence would be heard from witnesses to this effect.

Prof Sullivan had applied for the additional year because he had fallen 13 weeks short in the requirement for his entitlement to a State pension. His union, the Irish Federation of University Teachers, had taken up his case and his lawyers had written to the university when it emerged that sanction had not been given for the extra year.

It alleged that he had suffered loss, injury and damage and had been “bullied and harassed”.

It indicated that Prof Sullivan was about to be removed from his office in a manner that was “degrading”.

NUIG rejected the allegations in a letter of reply, the tribunal heard.

Former registrar, Nollaig MacConghail, told the tribunal of his frustration at trying to find out exactly what work Prof Sullivan was doing, as he had not been teaching for some time prior to reaching 65 and was not engaged in any significant research or administrative duties.

Mr Mac Conghail said: “Professor Sullivan was exceptional in his employment. He was conducting no teaching in the university. He was not located in the heart of the institution and he was not participating in group research.”

The hearing was adjourned.


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