Rainwater AND University College Dublin(Represented by John J McDonald & Co, Solicitors)
1.1 This dispute concerns a claim by Dr Mara Rainwater that she was discriminated against by University College Dublin on the grounds of gender and marital status contrary to the provisions of the Employment Equality Act, 1977 when she was not shortlisted for a permanent post as lecturer in philosophy. She also claimed indirect discrimination on these grounds and penalisation for taking a claim under the 1977 Act.
1.2 The claimant referred a claim under section 19 of the Employment Equality Act, 1977 to the Labour Court on 23 December 1996. At the same time she lodged a claim under the Anti-Discrimination (Pay) Act, 1974 (see DECE2004-004). The Labour Court referred both matters for investigation and recommendation by an Equality Officer on 13 January 1997. For various operational reasons, the claims were dealt with by three different Equality Officers over a period of six years, and moved from the Equality Service of the Labour Relations Commission to the Office of the Director of Equality Investigations following the establishment of the latter body on 18 October 2000. On 9 December 2002 the claims were delegated by the Director to Anne-Marie Lynch, an Equality Officer, for investigation and recommendation.
1.3 Over the period of time between the lodgement of the claims and their final delegation, both parties made extensive written submissions. The parties were notified on 13 February 2003 that a hearing of both claims would take place on 27 June, and were further notified on 22 May that it was necessary to reschedule the hearing for 20 June. The claimant failed to appear and no reason was provided for her absence. A letter to the claimant on 23 June advised that unless she provided a reason for her non-attendance within ten days, decisions would issue based on the available information. The claimant made no subsequent contact with the Equality Tribunal. Correspondence with the respondent, which was copied to the claimant, concluded on 8 August 2003.
2. SUMMARY OF THE CLAIMANT'S CASE
2.1 In September 1996 the claimant was informed that she had not been shortlisted for interview for a permanent post as a lecturer in philosophy at University College Dublin. A male candidate was subsequently appointed to the post. Her referral form, received by the Labour Court in December 1996, alleged direct discrimination on the grounds of sex and marital status, indirect discrimination on the grounds of sex and/or marital status and penalisation for taking a claim under the Anti-Discrimination (Pay) Act, 1974 and/or the
Employment Equality Act, 1977.
2.2 The claimant had been employed by the respondent in temporary posts as Assistant Lecturer in philosophy during the academic years 1993-1994 and 1994--1995. She asserted that her supervisor at that time, a previous Head of the Department of Philosophy, had been forbidden by internal memo to provide a reference to support her application for the permanent post. She also said that none of her other nominated referees were contacted in advance of the decision not to shortlist her.
2.3 The claimant said that the advertisement for the post appeared on 28 June 1996, and interviews were held on 16 September, which she described as an unusual lead time. She said that previous advertisements for permanent posts had always given adequate lead time, and gave as examples a post commencing in October 1992 for which the advertisement appeared in October 1991 and a post commencing in October 1994 for which the advertisement appeared in January 1994. The claimant suggested the shorter time span in the 1996 competition was an attempt to "slide" the successful male candidate into the post with very little opposition.
2.4 The claimant asserted that the successful male candidate was less qualified for the post, as he had not yet obtained his doctorate. She claimed that she had major publications, a doctoral qualification, administrative and teaching experience, as required for the advertised post, and that she had a reputation as a good teacher. She suggested the post was being "reserved" for the successful male candidate.
3. SUMMARY OF THE RESPONDENT'S CASE
3.1 The respondent denied all of the claimant's assertions of discrimination, and rejected the claimant's suggestions that the post was in any way reserved for the successful male candidate. Forty two applications were received for the post. A Board of Assessors was appointed in compliance with normal college procedures to draw up a shortlist of candidates and to carry out the interviews. The Board members were the Dean of the Faculty, the Head of the Philosophy Department, two members of the Department and an extern assessor from a British university. All of the applications were sent to the Board members and, following full consultation, they unanimously recommended six candidates
3.2 In the interests of impartiality, each of the assessors was advised not to provide references for candidates. As the former Head of Department was an assessor, he was not in a position to provide the claimant or any other candidate with a reference. The Board only sought references in respect of shortlisted candidates, so the claimant's other referees were not contacted.
3.3 The respondent described as tendentious the claimant's comments regarding the duration of time between the appearance of the advertisement for the post in June 1996 and the interviewing of candidates in September 1996, which she had compared unfavourably with previous such competitions. The respondent said the complainant neglected to mention that the closing date for receipt of applications following the October 1991 advertisement was December 1991, and the closing date listed in the January 1994 advertisement was March 1994. Similarly, the June 1996 advertisement stipulated a closing date of August 1996.
3.3 With regard to the differences in qualifications between the claimant and the successful male candidate, the respondent did not dispute that the claimant had a reputation as a good teacher. It did however deny that she held superior qualifications. The claimant's primary degree was in Geography and Geology, and her Master's degree was in Geography. She was ineligible for entry to the Master's programme in Philosophy because her lack of a primary degree in Philosophy, but this restriction did not apply to the PhD programme. The successful male candidate had been awarded double first class honours in his primary degree in Philosophy and Politics, and again achieved first class honours in his Master's degree in Philosophy. While he had not been awarded his doctorate at the time of the interviews, the respondent had received confirmation from University of Essex that his doctoral thesis had been completed. In any case, the possession of a PhD was described as desirable, as opposed to essential, in the June 1996 advertisement. He also had significant publications, administrative and teaching experience, and was described by the respondent as an outstanding candidate.
4. INVESTIGATION AND CONCLUSIONS OF THE EQUALITY
4.1 The claimant's initial referral form indicated that she was claiming discrimination on the grounds of sex and marital status. Within the numerous documents provided over the years since this claim was referred, there is no indication of the basis on which she alleged discrimination on the marital status ground. As she did not attend the hearing, I was unable to clarify this matter. The claim on this ground must therefore be dismissed. In some of her submissions, the claimant also asserted that age discrimination was practiced by the respondent. This is not a valid claim under the 1977 Act.
4.2 Given the volume of correspondence in this claim, the summary of the claimant's case above may appear to be particularly brief. I have excluded many of the claimant's allegations from consideration on the basis that they constituted personal assertions about several individuals, irrelevant to and unconnected with her claim of discrimination in the shortlisting for the 1996 competition. The three specific matters I have considered are the question of references, the timing of the advertisement and the relative qualifications of the claimant and the successful male candidate.
4.3 The respondent provided evidence that the members of the Board of Assessors were requested not to provide references to any candidate. I consider this to be a reasonable request, which affected all candidates in the same way. I also accept as reasonable the Board's decision to seek references only in respect of shortlisted candidates.
4.4 All of the competitions referred to by the claimant had the same time span between the appearance of the advertisement and the closing date, approximately two months. It is true that there were variable time spans between the advertisements and the starting date for the posts, ranging from one year in the 1991 advertisement to three months in the June 1996 advertisement. However, I am unable to read anything sinister in this variation. In any case, the claimant was not disadvantaged as she made an application for the post, as did forty one other candidates.
4.5 The respondent provided me with evidence of the qualifications of the successful male candidate, and of the other shortlisted candidates. It was the responsibility of the Board of Assessors to create the shortlist, subject only to the requirement that non-discriminatory criteria be applied, and I am satisfied that there is no evidence of discrimination in the selection process.
5.1 Based on the foregoing, I find that Dr Rainwater was not discriminated against by University College Dublin when she was omitted from a shortlist of candidates for the 1996 competition.
9 February 2004