Northern Ireland

Newtownabbey firm discriminated against non-Brethren

Gavin Connolly
Image caption Gavin Connolly was awarded £15,618 compensation

A tribunal has found that a County Antrim firm discriminated against an employee because he was not a member of the Brethren religious community.

Gavin Connolly, 30, from Newtownabbey, took a case against printing and merchandising company Oakdene Services.

The Fair Employment Tribunal found the firm unlawfully discriminated against him on grounds of religious belief and that he had been unfairly dismissed.

Mr Connolly was awarded £15,618 compensation.

He joined Oakdene Services in August 2010 and worked in sales and marketing.

Throughout his employment he believed that employees who were members of the Brethren community were treated more favourably.

Mr Connolly was told in June 2012 that he had been selected for possible redundancy and, following an unsuccessful grievance procedure and a period of sick leave, he resigned his post in August of that year.

The tribunal held that Mr Connolly's selection for redundancy in June 2012 was an act of religious discrimination and also that the decision, together with the way his grievance procedure was handled, amounted to constructive and unfair dismissal.

Company cars and pay rises

The tribunal also held that during his employment Mr Connolly had been subjected to religious discrimination through Brethren employees being given better treatment in the provision of "tangible" benefits such as company cars, pay rises and mobile phones.

It also found they were differences in "intangible issues" such as Brethren employees going on separate lunch breaks, having out-of hours meetings on company premises and receiving motivational emails not sent to other staff.

In reaching their decision the tribunal said: "It is clear to us that there was very much a culture of 'sheep and goats'.

"We were left with the clear impression from the respondent's witnesses that they saw it as desirable and preferable to be Brethren and, by implication, undesirable not to be Brethren."

Mr Connolly, whose case was backed by the Equality Commission, said: "I'm just glad the process is over and I can get on with my life.

"It has been a very stressful time but ultimately what matters to me is the recognition that I was treated unfairly at work."