Estate agency 'contemptuous' of fair employment laws: Tribunal

A leading estate agency in the North, which employed just one Catholic, showed contempt for fair employment laws, a tribunal has found.

A leading estate agency in the North, which employed just one Catholic, showed contempt for fair employment laws, a tribunal has found.

Templeton Robinson, which has offices in Belfast and Holywood, Co Down, was cleared of religious discrimination against Catholic employee Jonathan Montague.

But the Fair Employment Tribunal, in an eight-page decision, was scathing about the company’s equality record.

It emerged during the case that, at the time he worked at the company, Mr Montague was the only Catholic out of 22 employees.

The tribunal found that almost 20 years after the introduction of the Fair Employment Code of Practice, the company completely failed to address the issue of equality.

“The claim by a founder partner that completion of a monitory return is all that is required is contemptuous of the legislation,” it stated.

“The Fair Employment Code of Practice sets out nine policies which employers should adopt to promote equality of opportunity. This respondent has failed to address a single one. The evidence produced in this hearing has shown vividly the importance of each one of those policies for both employee and employer.”

It called on the company to seek advice from the Equality Commission and the Labour Relations Agency.

“Unless and until the respondent takes very urgent steps to face up to the duties under employment protection and anti-discrimination legislation, they should not be surprised if employees feel, rightly or wrongly, that they are at risk.”

Mr Montague, 29, who resigned as accounts administrator in February 2002, claimed that attitudes towards him changed when one of the partners found out he was a Catholic.

But the tribunal found that his claims of religious discrimination did not stand up.

It was satisfied that he was subjected to criticism and his employer was closely monitoring his work and movements.

But it did not accept Mr Montague’s claim that this was because of his religion.

It pointed out that during evidence Mr Montague had lied under oath by inflating the value of his claim for compensation.

“Where his own interest was at stake, the applicant gave false evidence.”

It accepted Mr Montague’s claims that a comment was made about the size of Catholic families.

“That it was made undoubtedly lies in the fact that the respondent was impervious to the concept of equality of opportunity, whether by accident or design.”

The tribunal had no doubt that Templeton Robinson had been concerned about Mr Montague’s work performance but expressed surprise at the extra duties and responsibilities it had given to him.

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