Female engineer in £5k settlement with Northern Ireland firm over sex discrimination case
A female engineer who alleged she was the victim of sex discrimination has settled a case against her former Ballymena-based employer for £5,000.
Amy Verner claimed that she was treated less favourably by Grants Electrical Services (NI) Ltd (GES Group) because some of her all male colleagues presumed that as a newly-wed she would soon fall pregnant.
The case, which was supported by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI), has been settled without admission of liability by the firm, which also has an office in Newtownabbey.
The design engineer alleged that she stopped being allocated projects which required her to work out-of-office after returning to work following her wedding. Instead she was only given office-based computer aided design (CAD) projects.
"I enjoyed my job and the projects I worked on, but I was shocked by comments made to me before and after my wedding which suggested that there was a sense of resentment that I would soon be pregnant," she said.
"I was neither pregnant nor planning to become pregnant. It was implied that by having a baby I would somehow be dumping my work responsibilities on to colleagues."
Mrs Verner came to believe the assumptions were negatively impacting her career but said her concerns fell upon deaf ears.
"I raised my concerns with the company as I felt the comments were unfair and unjustified but I don't think they were taken seriously," she said.
"In the end I felt I had no option but to seek employment elsewhere."
Director of legal services for ECNI Anne McKernan said Mrs Verner's experience highlights the need for all employers to take staff concerns seriously and have "robust" policies and procedures in place.
"They must not make assumptions about their female employees and subsequently treat them less favourably than their male counterparts," she added.
"Women are an essential part of building our economy and currently women are persistently under-represented across the STEM industries in Northern Ireland."
Solicitor Kevin Gallagher from Kennedys Law acting on behalf of GES Group said the engineering company is committed to promoting equality and diversity within its business and throughout the sector.
"The company does not accept the claimant's version of events and confirms that this case was resolved without admission of liability for commercial reasons," he added.
"The company is an equal opportunities employer and subscribes to the view that equality means offering equal opportunity and rights to all employees to achieve and develop within their roles."
Mr Gallagher said the firm is committed to encouraging women to develop their careers and recently appointed three female members of staff to its management team to create an increasingly diverse workforce.
The company has agreed to meet with ECNI officials to review its policies and procedures as part of the settlement.