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Female engineer settles sex discrimination case

Female engineer settles sex discrimination case
Case supported by the Equality Commission NI.

A female engineer who alleged she was subjected to unlawful sex discrimination while employed by Grants Electrical Services (NI) Ltd has settled a case against her former employer for £5,000. The case was supported by the Equality Commission and was settled without admission of liability.

Amy Verner was employed as a Design Engineer and alleged that she was treated less favourably because colleagues within the company had decided that she would soon be pregnant as she was newly married. She was the only female engineer on her team.

Amy had worked on projects which involved testing which required her to work from client premises as well as her own office. On returning to work after her marriage, Amy alleged these projects had been allocated to other engineers and that she was now tasked with office based and Computer Aided Design (CAD) projects only.

Amy Verner said: “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. 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.

“When my projects were given to other engineers and I was then given CAD work and some other office based jobs, I firmly believed that other people’s assumptions that I wished to start a family were now affecting my career. 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. In the end I felt I had no option but to seek employment elsewhere.”

Commenting on the case, Anne McKernan, Director of Legal of Services, Equality Commission for Northern Ireland said: “Amy’s experiences highlight the need for all employers to take their employees concerns seriously and to have robust policies and procedures in place to deal with issues raised. They must not make assumptions about their female employees and subsequently treat them less favourably than their male counterparts. 

“Women are an essential part of building our economy and currently women are persistently underrepresented across the STEM industries in Northern Ireland. It is important that skilled, knowledgeable and experienced women are encouraged to build a career in our STEM industries”, concluded Anne McKernan.

As part of the settlement terms Grants Electrical Services (NI) Limited has affirmed its commitment to the principle of equality of opportunity in the workplace and that it has agreed to meet with the Commission to review its policies, practices and procedures.

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