Employment Equality Acts
DECISION NO: DEC-2012-117
Thomas Browne and John Coughlan
(Instructed by Ms. Cliona Kimber, BL on the instructions of in-house legal services)
File No. EE/2010/096 & EE/2010/106
Date of Issue: 10 September 2012
Employment Equality Acts - Discriminatory treatment - Retirement - Age - Prima facie Case - failure to attend an oral hearing
1. Dispute and delegation
1.1 This dispute concerns a claim by Mr. John Coughlan and Mr. Thomas Browne (hereafter "the complainants") that they received a voluntary severance package from the ESB (hereafter "the respondent") the terms of which are age discriminatory. The complainants contend that the severance package was discriminatory on the basis of more favourable benefits being provided to younger members of staff.
1.2 The complainants referred a claim of discrimination to the Director of the Equality Tribunal on 15 and 18 April 2008 respectively under the Employment Equality Acts. On 28 May 2012, in accordance with his powers under section 75 of the Acts, the Director then delegated the case to Valerie Murtagh- an Equality Officer - for investigation, hearing and decision and for the exercise of other relevant functions of the Director under Part VII of the Acts on which date my investigation commenced. As required by Section 79(1) and as part of my investigation, I proceeded to hearing on 21 August 2012.
2. The hearing
2.1. Both parties were advised of the date of the hearing by ordinary and registered post on 14 June 2012. The complainants at that stage were represented by the TEEU. The TEEU informed the Tribunal by letter dated 17 August, 2012 that they would not be representing the complainants at the hearing and that the complainants had been notified of this decision. The complainants did not attend the hearing and the Tribunal has not been informed of any exceptional circumstances excusing their failure to attend. I am satisfied that section 85A clearly places an onus on the complainants to establish a prima facie case of discrimination before an investigation can proceed.
3.1. In accordance with Section 79(6) of the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2008, I issue the following decision. As part of my investigation under Section 79 of the Act, I am obliged to hold a hearing. I find that the complainants' failure to attend such a hearing was unreasonable in the circumstances and that any obligation under Section 79 has ceased. As no evidence was given at the hearing in support of the allegation of discrimination, I conclude the investigation and find against the complainants.
10 September 2012