Demotion left accountant with just 30 minutes work to do per day

An accountant at Irish Rail was taking home €50,000 a year for little more than half an hour’s work a day after having been demoted from office management, a court has heard.

Counsel Stephen O’Sullivan told Judge Francis Comerford that Tracy Lynch had gone from being in charge of seven staff to a desk in a corridor with practically nothing to do.

“Staring at the clock is the most taxing kind of work,” she had told the court.

Mr O’Sullivan said the mother of three had developed mental issues as a result of her treatment.

Judge Comerford awarded Ms Lynch, aged 48, of River Forest, Leixlip, Co Kildare, €25,000 damages for personal injuries.

Cathy Maguire, counsel for Irish Rail, succeeded in having a €75,000 claim by Ms Lynch for alleged bullying and harassment set aside.

Ms Maguire told the Circuit Civil Court the only case that could proceed was a work-stress claim. Ms Maguire told the court the case arose out of the restructuring of Irish Rail’s finance accounts office in 2014. She said the company denied Ms Lynch had been demoted.

Ms Lynch told Mr O’Sullivan her enjoyment of work and relationships with management had deteriorated following her demotion to the extent that she developed serious depression. On one occasion, she had nearly wet herself when a line manager had thumped his desk and told her to get out of his office after an error had been discovered in accounts.

Judge Comerford, in a reserved judgment, said Ms Lynch was claiming Irish Rail had created work conditions that caused her harm and which were foreseeable.

He said there was a clear and obvious demotion which had significantly altered work she had been doing for the previous nine years.

He said Ms Lynch had been assigned to work at the same level as employees she had previously supervised. The “shoddy” manner in which the demotion was affected had shown a significant lack of concern for her and the effect of it on her.

Judge Comerford said Ms Lynch had suffered considerable upset, distress and humiliation. By August 2015, her depression required antidepressant medications and counselling.

She had felt the demotion, loss of status and reputational damage and the scant level of work she had afterwards been assigned had been a burden to her.

The judge said there was no dispute but that Ms Lynch had suffered a depressive illness and he was satisfied this had been occasioned by the conduct of Irish Rail. A proper response to her grievances would have shortened the duration of her illness which could be traced back to her demotion.


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