Record €189k award against Iarnród Éireann

A WOMAN who claimed she was given a “dummy job” and a damp basement to work in after returning from a career break at Iarnród Éireann has been awarded €189,000, the biggest award ever made by the Equality Tribunal.

Monica Murphy, who took her case to the tribunal, said a less qualified younger man was being groomed to take over the promotion she would have expected to obtain.

Ms Murphy began her career with CIÉ in 1971 and was one of three staff – and the only female – to be awarded a scholarship to University College Dublin. She attained first place in international marketing in her commerce degree in 1984. CIÉ sponsored her to do an MBs in International Marketing the following year and she obtained first class honours. She joined CIÉ’s marketing department and was involved with the task force that implemented the establishment of Iarnród Éireann.

Ms Murphy has also been appointed to various committees in the Marketing Institute of Ireland (MII) and other professional organisations. She told the tribunal she was making “steady progress in her career” until her return in January 2003 from a career break, when it subsequently took a nosedive. Among the allegations made by Ms Murphy to the tribunal were:

* She was discouraged by her supervisor to take part in interviews for posts which would have been a promotion as they were on an ungraded salary scale compared to her graded scale.

* She was told the role of marketing communications manager was being created for her, but the post was never formally announced within the company, she had no official title and no budget.

* Although the post was sold to her as a promotion, she received no additional pay as promised.

* Her supervisor asked her in a meeting what age she was, when she intended retiring and where her husband worked.

* When she refused a voluntary severance package her supervisor remarked “Maybe you’re not as good as you think you are” and “Maybe you don’t see yourself as others see you”.

* Iarnród Eireann subsequently tried to “freeze” her out by cancelling her membership subscriptions to various professional institutes while continuing to pay the fees of her male colleagues.

Ms Murphy also alleged efforts to apply for other jobs within the company had been deliberately stymied, including a post for which interviews were not held and which was given to a young man who was subsequently sent to Harvard University at a cost of €10,000 to Iarnród Eireann for a Leaders for Tomorrow course. Ms Murphy had hoped to get the job and “break the glass ceiling” and become the first woman to have worked her way through the ranks in the commercial department of Iarnród Éireann and report directly to the chief executive.

Iarnród Éireann denied all allegations of discrimination. However Ms Murphy’s supervisor told the tribunal “One of Monica’s problems is her ambition”.

The tribunal found in Ms Murphy’s favour and she was awarded €126,000 (the equivalent of two years salary) in compensation for discrimination in relation to her conditions of employment and access to promotion and €63,000 (the equivalent of a year’s salary) in compensation for the distress caused by victimisation.

Yesterday a spokesperson for Iarnród Éireann said the company has not yet decided whether to appeal the award.


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