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Failure to award SMO position ‘not result of age discrimination’

By Mindo - 21st May 2020

A Workplace Relations Commission adjudication officer has decided against the IMO in a case where the union argued that a member was denied a promotion to senior medical officer (SMO) as a result of indirect age discrimination.

In May 2017 Dr Joe Quinn, an Area Medical Officer (AMO) in the west, applied for an SMO position. He was informed in July he was unsuccessful in the eligibility exercise as he did not have a “Master’s in public health/diploma in public health and/or equivalent qualification”.

Dr Quinn detailed that the qualifications outlined as suitable for the SMO grade “posed a problem” as it did not recognise his diploma in child health.

This diploma is more likely to be held by those who started their careers at the grade of AMO and, therefore, older people.

Dr Quinn and the IMO submitted that AMOs were statistically older than SMOs and that the diploma in child health, which a majority of these older AMOs would hold, was equivalent to most Master’s level qualifications.

“It was submitted that the respondent has indirectly discriminated against the complainant on the grounds of age and that it remains ongoing,” stated a case summary.

The HSE position was that Dr Quinn had not shown that the qualification requirement constituted discrimination.

A number of employees, older and younger than Dr Quinn, held the necessary qualification, according to the HSE.

The adjudication officer noted that almost one-third of AMOs were under the age of 50 with 22.58 per cent aged 50-54, which was younger than Dr Quinn’s age.

The adjudication officer also stated that a review of the age profile of SMOs showed 4.54 per cent were in the youngest age profile (30-34), with 25 per cent aged 40-44. The number of SMOs across the remaining age profiles ranged from 11-16 per cent “which does not suggest any significant disparity; with 4.54 per cent over the age of 65”.

Dr Quinn and the IMO had failed to establish a “prima facie case of discrimination”, according to the ruling.

The IMO said it was “disappointed” with the decision and will consider how to progress the issue through its public and community health committee.

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