The Labour Court recently overturned a €40,000 award by the Equality Tribunal to a Department of Defence employee who claimed he had been victimised after he submitted a claim to the Equality Tribunal that he had been discriminated against on the grounds of his personal beliefs.* The Tribunal found that his discrimination complaint was misconceived in law but upheld his claim of victimisation.
The claimant was a humanist who objected, among other things, to the saying of mass on the Department premises. He alleged following his complaint that he was left isolated, and undermined without meaningful work to do. The Equality Tribunal held that a claimant does not need to be successful with their initial claim of discrimination in order to succeed with their victimisation claim.
On appeal the Labour Court said that it was well established that a claimant did not have to succeed with the initial discriminatory claim for a claim of victimisation to succeed but that the catalyst for the adverse treatment complained of must come within the ambit of one of the protected grounds under the Act. In this instance, even by importing the widest possible meaning to the relevant sub section the complaints made could not come within the meaning of the legislation. The organisation of the mass could not be interpreted as affecting the claimant in any way whatsoever or as endowing a particular religion as the claimant alleged.
The above recommendation together with the recommendation in Public Appointments Service v Kevin Roddy (EDA 1019) clearly shows the Labour court endorsing the proposition that even if the initial discriminatory claim does not succeed, in order to succeed with a claim of victimisation, the catalyst alleged for the adverse treatment complained of must in some sense come within the ambit of one of the protected acts under the employment equality legislation.