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New York diplomat Patricia Cullen Photo by: Irish Independent

New York Irish lesbian diplomat has discrimination case overturned

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New York diplomat Patricia Cullen Photo by: Irish Independent

Patricia Cullen, a senior Irish diplomat at the United Nations in New York, has had a $28,000 lesbian discrimination award overturned by Ireland’s Labor Court.

A four day hearing in Dublin heard Cullen claim that she was victimised by the Department of Foreign Affairs over her sexuality.

Cullen told the Equality Tribunal hearing that she had been denied an upgrading by the department ‘because of her sexual orientation’.

The Irish Independent reports that she said it was well known in her department that she was gay and claimed that she was told indirectly by a superior that her failure to secure an upgrading was ‘because of her lifestyle and her apparent lack of appreciation of the family’.

The claimant also told the Tribunal that she was victimised by the Department for lodging the discrimination claim.

After she was posted to the UN in New York, Cullen claimed, her performance was initially assessed as ‘three out of five’ and she was told it was ‘sufficient to remain in what was a prestigious position’.

Three months later however Cullen was informed that the wrong form had been used in her assessment and she was given a new rating of two and told she could be recalled from New York.

The Tribunal heard Cullen had argued that this ‘amounted to victimisation’ because she had ‘previously lodged a potentially embarrassing claim of discrimination against the department on the grounds of sexual orientation’.

Conor Stokes, Equality Officer for the Tribunal, rejected the discrimination claim on the basis that the evidence was hearsay but he did find that the subsequent downgrading of Cullen’s performance amounted to victimisation, and awarded her €20,000.

The Department didn’t attend the original tribunal, due to confusion over dates, and appealed the Stokes decision to the Labor Court.

A number of senior Foreign Affairs staff rebutted Cullen’s claims at a four day hearing in Dublin last week including the ambassador to Brazil Frank Sheridan; the ambassador to France Paul Kavanagh and the secretary-general to the President Adrian O’Neill.

According to the Independent, they all argued that the treatment of Ms Cullen had nothing to do with her sexual orientation, but was down to ‘a number of difficulties’ with her performance and they also pointed out she remained in her post in New York.

Ambassador Kavanagh said: “I have never experienced anyone in the department adopting an adverse attitude towards officers who are gay.”

Kevin Dowling, the department official who had assessed Ms Cullen’s performance, also said that he was unaware she had lodged a discrimination claim against the department and argued that the downgrading could not be considered an act of victimisation.

Chairman of the Labour Court Kevin Duffy agreed and set aside the €20,000 compensation award made to Cullen. He also upheld the tribunal’s finding that the department had not discriminated against Ms Cullen.

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