A state employment watchdog has ordered Teagasc to pay €40,000 compensation to a female Statistician allegedly paid around €20,000 a year less than a male colleague doing similar work.
Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Adjudicator, Jim Dolan made the order after finding that the State agricultural advisory and research body discriminated against Paula Reid on the grounds of gender by failing to provide her with equal pay in respect of a male comparator under the Employment Equality Act.
Along with the €40,000 compensation payout, Mr Dolan also ordered Teagasc to pay Ms Reid arrears since 2017 - and this could total almost €100,000 based on figures provided by Ms Reid to the WRC.
As part of the order, Mr Dolan ordered Teagasc to put Ms Reid on the appropriate pay scale that her male comparator was on from May 1st 2017 and that any arrears of remuneration be paid to her within the period of two months.
Mr Dolan ordered the head of HR at Teagasc to apologise to Ms Reid for the department's past and present "very inept" handling of her claim.
He described Teagasc’s treatment of Ms Reid’s equal pay claim as "absolutely shocking".
The WRC hearing was told that Ms Reid was paid substantially less than her male comparator, earning approximately €20,000 per annum less than him.
But Ray Ryan BL instructed by Ronan Killeen, Killeen Solicitors told the WRC that Ms Reid was, "in substance and in essence, doing the same work as him".
Mr Dolan made his comment that Teagasc’s treatment of Ms Reid’s pay claim was "absolutely shocking" after citing an email by Ms Reid to Teagasc’s Employee Relations Manager outlining the body’s lack of action in dealing with her claim.
Ms Reid has been employed with Teagasc since January 1977 and in an email dated August 19th 2019, Ms Reid stated: "This issue has been ongoing for 18 years and nothing has progressed and there appears no willingness on the part of HR to resolve it."
"I have had meetings /correspondence on this issue in 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009 with HR, Declan Troy, Tom Kirley, Seamus Crosse and nothing has advanced," she said.
"I have been in the post of Statistician since 2001 and now you want to determine if I am suitable to do the job. It appears to me that HR are making every excuse not to progress this matter."
Mr Dolan said that the job description in Teagasc's employee directory of Ms Reid and her male comparator Jim Grant "are identical". Mr Grant retired in 2020.
Mr Dolan stated that Ms Reid had crossed two hurdles in successfully making her discrimination claim - he or she must establish like work and he or she must identify a comparator engaged in like work who is paid a greater amount.
Ms Reid denied the difference in remuneration with Mr Grant can be explained or justified by grade, skills, experiences and qualifications.
Teagasc argued that Ms Reid is a Technician Statistician and that Mr Grant was a Senior Research Scientist Statistician and had a completely different level of responsibility in his role.
In a letter from March 2020, Teagasc’s solicitors stated that the difference in remuneration between Ms Reid and Dr Grant "relates to Dr Grant’s grade, skills, experience and qualifications and not gender",
Teagasc’s solicitors stated that "Ms Reid provides statistical analysis support to research staff primarily in the Food Directorate on the design, analysis and interpretation of controlled experiments, collaborates on research projects and has not produced any peer-reviewed publications."
They argued that "Dr Grant is currently a Senior Research Officer in Teagasc with significant experience working at this level for over fifteen years, having completed a PhD 18 years ago.
They stated that "Dr Grant is a leader within Teagasc in terms of statistical support to all areas of the organisation, he carries out large scale projects, contributes to the business planning process and has prepared numerous peer reviewed publications."