Tribunal backs redundant teacher
A Protestant teacher selected for redundancy because of her religion has been awarded more than £8,000.
A Fair Employment Tribunal ruled that former p3 tutor Julie Brudell suffered the discrimination after Catholic pupils began outnumbering Protestants.
She still works at Ballykelly Primary, Co Londonderry, but was shifted to the school's nursery unit after her redundancy last August was appealed.
The tribunal said: "It is clear that there was an awareness that the Roman Catholic pupils now outnumbered the Protestant ones, that the school had lost so many children already and would lose even more depending on who was made redundant."
One of the redundancy priorities at the school, proposed by Limavady parish priest governor Fr Michael Collins, was the criterion involving the school's "ethos". That said staffing should be in line with the religious mix of the pupils.
The tribunal added Ms Brudell "received the treatment she did because of her religion, or at the very least, to the extent that the respondents' motives could be said to be mixed, her religion was an important factor in the respondents' decision-making process. The fact that the respondents acted with good intentions in the interests of the school does not provide them with a defence."
Ms Brudell, an infant teacher with more than 25 years' experience, was awarded £8,250 after she was made redundant along with three other Protestant teachers. The staff and pupils were mixed. No Catholics lost their job although three had less service than Ms Brudell.
Although a controlled school Ballykelly Primary has always admitted pupils from both sides of the religious divide. However Catholic religious education was always delivered by Catholic teachers. A governor at the school said during the tribunal's hearing that you had to believe in what you were teaching in the sense that Catholic teachers were sympathetic to the faith and the spiritual needs of the children.
The change in the religious make-up of the school was prompted by the closure of Ballykelly Army barracks and the departure of the mainly Protestant service children. That left five Catholic teachers and ten Protestants teaching 170 Catholic pupils and 130 Protestants.
Ms Brudell said: "I am very glad that this has been resolved and that the tribunal has found that my selection for redundancy was unlawful discrimination on the grounds of religious belief."