Equality Authority Welcomes Record Award of £85,000 in Golden Vale Discrimination Case

The Equality Authority has welcomed a decision by the Office of the Director of Equality Investigations to award a record £85,0000, in an equality case, to a woman who was found to have been discriminated against by Golden Vale PLc in 1999.

Commenting on the decision and on the Equality Authority’s support for Ms Rebecca
O’Malley, the employee in question, in pursuing her claim, Niall Crowley C.E.O. of the Equality Authority said:

“The Equality Authority is of the view that awards for discrimination should be sufficient to guarantee people who are discriminated against, real and effective judicial protection and that they should have a real deterrent effect. Equality awards in the past have been so low that they have not constituted a sufficient deterrent against discrimination in employment. The size of the record award made in the Rebecca O’Malley v Golden Vale PIc case is a significant development and should have a positive effect on helping to protect people against discrimination in the future”.

Ms O’Malley was supported from the outset in the pursuit of her claim by the Equality
Authority. She claimed that she was discriminated against by Golden Vale PLc in terms of Section 2( 1) of the Employment Equality Act, 1977 when her employer attempted to demote her and replace her with a male colleague who had less experience and was less qualified. Ms O’Malley also claimed that she was discriminated against when she was victimised by the company for having pursued her rights under the Equality legislation.

Rebecca O’Malley was appointed to a newly created position of Marketing Manager in the Cheese and Spreads Division of Golden Vale in January, 1998. She successfully completed her initial six months probationary period with the company. On 1st March, 1999 she was told by senior management that she was to be removed from her post as Marketing Manager and appointed to the position of Category Marketing Manager, a position which had, heretofore, reported to her. The position of Marketing Manager was being offered to a male colleague of Ms O’Malley’s.

Intervention by the Labour Relations Commission, which was initiated by Ms
O’Malley, failed to resolve the situation. She formally advised the company that she
was pregnant on 20th May, 1999; While the impasse had still to be resolved Rebecca
O’Malley was dismissed from Golden Vale.

The Equality Officer found that Golden Vale Ltd discriminated against Ms O’Malley in terms of Section 2(a) of the Employment Equality Act, 1977 and penalised her in terms of Section 2( d) and in contravention Section 3 of the same Act. Given the nature of the discrimination and the fact that Rebecca O’Malley was found to have been penalised by Golden Vale for having taken the case against them, she was awarded £85,000 in compensation, an unprecedented amount in terms of awards made under the equality legislation.

It is understood that Golden Vale Plc has appealed the Equality Officer’s recommendation to the Labour Court.