UCD in age discrimination controversy

 
 

A staff member of UCD was awarded €5,000 by the Equality Tribunal for being discriminated against on the basis of his age.

Dr Ian Cornelius, who was the head of the School of Information and Library Studies, applied for a professorship position in 2008. He had been working in the University since 1978 and was aged 63 at the time of his application.

In a meeting between the Head of Human Sciences, Professor Brigid Laffan, and Dr Cornelius, Professor Laffan advised that she would not consider someone so close to retirement for a professorship and advised him not to apply.

An article published in the Irish Times said that Professor Laffan informed Dr Cornelius that the position was intended for an external candidate or ‘new blood’ and that an internal candidate would not be considered. Dr Cornelius later reported that this meeting upset him greatly and on the advice of Human Resources, he took his complaint to the Employee Relations Manager.

After telling someone at HR about the conversation, he emailed his concernes the conversation to HR before they were forwarded to The Employee Relations Manager. He failed to respond and in November 2008, Mr Cornelius was informed that he did not make the short list for the professorship despite recommendations from external assessors.

Professor Laffan has claimed that she made the comments on a personal level and that she was merely tried to prevent disappointment to Mr Cornelius.

UCD attempted to argue that because of Dr Cornelius’ late application for the job; he had already been involved with the recruitment process as he held a position on the recruitment committee. They also claimed that he did not meet the criteria set out, despite evidence of relevant work experience and numerous academic achievements in his field.

The Equality Officer appointed to the case, Hugh Lonsdale found that UCD had discriminated against Mr Cornelius and was in breach if the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2007. He ordered UCD to pay Dr Cornelius €5,000 in compensation.

In his report, Mr Lonsdale said that he did not understand why the principal of human sciences would tell Dr Cornelius he was too close to retirement age to be considered for the post, if in fact he had not been shortlisted because he hadn’t met other essential criteria.

Professor Laffan declined to comment on the matter. When contacted by The University Observer, Dr Cornelius also declined to comment saying, “I won’t be saying anything until the period for any appeal on the decision has past (which is) February 3rd.”

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