The Equality Tribunal was subsumed into the Workplace Relations Commission in 2015

An update on legal proceedings: 15 January 2018

06/02/2018 update: Our concerns about WRC Adjudication Officer Louise Boyle have now been described in detail in the report “The case against WRC Adjudication Officer Louise Boyle“. 

06/02/2018 update: This article was published on 15 January 2018. Subsequent to this, at some point between 15 January 2018 and 17 January 2018, Louise Boyle took down her LinkedIn profile so that it is no longer publicly viewable.

In late 2014, we initiated Equality Tribunal proceedings against NUI Galway. We set out the events that took place in 2013 and 2014 and claimed that NUI Galway had discriminated against us on the ground of our religion. In this article we provide an update on these proceedings.

A joint hearing to deal with our complaints was held on 28 October 2016. At this point, the Equality Tribunal had been subsumed into the Workplace Relations Commission (a new statutory body established by the Workplace Relations Act 2015).

Adjudication Officer Louise Boyle was assigned to hear the complaints. Six hearings took place, on 28 October 2016, 08 December 2016, 03 March 2017, 15 March 2017, 16 March 2017 and 12 May 2017.

Over the course of the hearings, we were left alarmed on many occasions by behaviour of Adjudication Officer Louise Boyle which we felt was fundamentally incompatible with fair procedures. In the coming days, we will more fully detail our concerns with Louise Boyle and the Workplace Relations Commission. We mention several points here:

  • In her opening remarks at the beginning of the first hearing, Louise Boyle said that she was “scared by all the boxes” (of legal submissions & evidence).
  • At another point she complained about all the black and white documents, saying that she would prefer if there was more colour printing.
  • During the hearings, Louise Boyle made repeated references to her salary, stating that she “was not getting paid for overtime”.
  • On a number of occasions, speaking in relation to her final decision on our complaints, she said: “Oh, it’s going to be appealed anyway”.
  • When a witness for NUI Galway gave incriminating evidence that our religion had been discussed during a committee meeting, Louise Boyle offered the witness the opportunity to retract this evidence, stating: “Would you like me to strike that off the record?
  • Subsequent to this, during the final hearing, Louise Boyle walked out of the hearing room, stating: “I am not happy as the Equality Officer to continue with the hearing today”. She had been coercing us to declare that we were “happy” with her, as the “Equality Officer”, to continue to hear the case. About an hour later, Louise Boyle re-entered the room, accompanied by NUI Galway’s representatives and their legal team. Without explanation, she then stated: “I am happy to proceed and on that basis, we will proceed with the hearing. Let’s proceed”.

Louise Boyle has no legal qualifications. Her background and experience is in Human Resource Management and Industrial Relations. It is unfathomable that she would be assigned to hear and investigate a complex and serious case involving key questions of law and religious discrimination.

On 09 June 2017 we wrote a letter of complaint regarding the above to the Director General of the Workplace Relations Commission, Oonagh Buckley. We copied our concerns to Frances Fitzgerald TD, the then Government Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. The Minister refused to intervene in the matter. On 26 June 2017 we received a reply from David Small, Head of Adjudication Services at the Workplace Relations Commission. He dismissed our concerns, stating simply that Adjudication Officers “are independent in the performance of their functions”.

By November 2017, six months after the final hearing into the complaints, we had not received the decision of Adjudication Officer Louise Boyle. We contacted the Workplace Relations Commission on several occasions, but no reason for the delay was provided, nor would David Small provide any indication of when the decision would be forthcoming.

As a last resort we contacted RTÉ Liveline on Monday 13 November 2017. They were interested in our story and contacted both NUI Galway and the Workplace Relations Commission for comment. Within a week of Liveline’s contact with the Workplace Relations Commission, we received Louise Boyle’s decision in the post.

Louise Boyle dismissed our complaints. In short, she held that the majority of our claims were not notified properly to NUI Galway and, as a result, she “does not have jurisdiction to consider them”. Put simply, Louise Boyle held that we did not properly put NUI Galway on notice that we were taking legal action; and that therefore no consideration could be made of the majority of our claims.

Her decision ignores extensive legal precedent of Irish courts (such as the Labour Court decision of Department of Foreign Affairs v Patricia Cullen EDA 116) in relation to notification. It is especially concerning that Louise Boyle would choose to sit out six full days of hearings, with huge cost to ourselves and to the taxpayer, only to produce a decision one year later which could easily have been written after the first or second hearing.

We have appealed the decision to the Circuit Court.

Isaac Burke

15 January 2018

Written by Isaac Burke

Hardiman Scholar at NUI Galway