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Doctor ‘should have age discrimination case heard’

Dr Kevin Brogan, an Area Medical Officer (AMO), made a complaint against the HSE for age discrimination under the Employment Equality Acts to the Equality Tribunal on 3 October 2014. However, the Equality Officer decided the complaint failed to comply with the time limits prescribed in the Acts.  Dr Brogan, represented by the IMO, appealed to the Labour Court against this decision.

Dr Brogan has been employed as an AMO by the HSE since 1997. It was, at the time, the relevant entry level grade in the field of public health management within the HSE.

In 2003, this grade was replaced with a new entry grade of Senior Medical Officer (SMO), appointment to which required a candidate to hold a Master’s Degree in Public Health or an equivalent qualification, meaning the HSE no longer recruited staff at the AMO grade.

However, Dr Brogan did not hold such a qualification and was ineligible for appointment to the post.

His representatives argued that this new qualification requirement discriminated against him on the basis of age, arguing that younger doctors could more easily acquire the qualification than longer-serving older doctors.

At the time, Dr Brogan had worked for the respondent for 10 years and held Diplomas in Child Health and Obstetrics. However, he did not hold a Master’s qualification in public health and “would experience considerable difficulty in acquiring one”, according to his representatives.

He submits that this policy of requiring a Master’s had the effect of discriminating against him on the age ground stipulated in the Equality Acts.

The HSE argued that the complaint was submitted outside of the statutory time limit for bringing such cases, which should be six months after an act of alleged discrimination took place.

 It stated that no incidence of discrimination occurred in the six months prior to the commencement of the complaint.

The Labour Court decided that, given the new grade of SMO is still in place, the issue required consideration and came under the scope of the Equality Acts.

The Court formed no view on the substantive matter to be decided.

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