— High Court upholds Labour Court’s initial ruling
— Justice Cooke said complaints of gender discrimination were not valid
An appeal to the High Court made by a senior lecturer in the UCD School of Law and Business claiming gender discrimination was a factor in the decision to not promote her to professor has been turned down.
Dr Eleanor O’Higgins brought her action to the High Court in order to challenge the decision handed down by the Labour Court. In November 2012, the Labour Court heard her case and it was adjudicated that gender discrimination did not factor in the decision of the promotions committee (UCAATP) not to promote Dr O’Higgins to professor.
In the final judgement in the High Court last Friday, Mr Justice John Cooke said that there was no apparent error of law and that no valid reasons for overturning the decision by the Labour Court had been presented by Dr O’Higgins.
Dr O’Higgins’ initial appeal to the Labour Court referred to her second application for a professorship in 2007. Her follow up appeal to the High Court requested that the Labour Court rehear her case.
During the proceedings of her appeal to the Labour Court, Dr O’Higgins suggested gender discrimination could be argued on three accounts in relation to the selection process for professorship in UCD. The balance of gender on the promotions committee, which contained 12 men and one woman, was challenged.
Following a review of the selection process, the Labour Court asserted that the promotions committee had valid grounds for rejecting Dr O’Higgins’ application for professor because she did not meet the sufficient academic criteria for promotion.
Dr O’Higgins still disputes the grounds on which her appeal to the Labour Court was rejected. She feels the court failed to acknowledge all the evidence and material presented, while also failing to undertake an analysis to compared the academic credentials of each candidate up for promotion.
She also claims that the Labour Court’s adjudication didn’t account for the committee’s lack of expertise in business ethics, therefore affecting their ability to judge her application, and reiterated the gender imbalance on the panel.
When delivering his final verdict, Justice Cooke stressed that there was no element of competition between the applicants for promotion and that there was no threshold for the numbers of promotions that could be approved.
Justice Cooke also addressed the matter of the Labour Court’s role in Dr O’Higgins’ appeal process. Cooke said that the court’s role was to examine the complaint that gender bias factored in the process of applying for professorship, and not deciding if Dr O’Higgins had grounds for promotion.