A member of the Orange Order did not suffer discrimination within the Civil Service on the grounds of his religion, an industrial tribunal has found.
Bradley Martin had claimed he was treated less favourably and suffered harassment at the Department of Social Development (DSD) when it became known he was an Orangeman.
The staff officer – responsible for around 125 employees – alleged his requests for team overtime were repeatedly rejected and that complaints he made regarding an alleged breach of the neutral working environment policy caused him to become the subject of “rumour and gossip”.
Mr Martin had objected to the circulation of an article about a charity GAA match at Casement Park that referred to the west Belfast venue as “the hallowed ground”.
He believed the comments were in poor taste given Casement Park was the site of the IRA murder of two Army corporals in 1988.
However, at yesterday’s hearing in Belfast, tribunal chairman Duncan Buchanan dismissed Mr Martin’s concerns. He said: “We found it surprising that any reasonable person found it to be a violation of his dignity.
“We found that this claim to link it to the brutal murder of two soldiers somewhat distasteful.”
Mr Buchanan said he believed the DSD took equality at work “extremely seriously” and added: “There is no evidence the claimant [Mr Bradley] was denied overtime for his team when he went through the proper procedure.”
Mr Buchanan also said he accepted the evidence given by one of the DSD senior managers – that he was unaware of Mr Bradley’s Orange links, despite the claimant’s allegations that his membership of the Order was often referred to during the working day. He also rejected Mr Bradley’s interpretation of an “I look after my own” comment allegedly made by a senior manager who was a Catholic. The chairman said he accepted the remark could have meant she looked after her own team of subordinates, rather than having any religious connotation.
Speaking after the hearing, Mr Bradley said he had since transferred to another department within the DSD and was under severe stress.
“I am extremely disappointed with the [tribunal] outcome,” he said.
“This has increased difficulties for me personally because it’s now widely known that I am a member of the Orange Order.
“I didn’t want anybody to know and I told nobody, but they [work colleagues] had seen me on television and at church memorial events in Belfast city centre.”
Mr Bradley added: “I feel that the tribunal did not give enough weight to the evidence provided by me and my witnesses.”
Lawyers for the DSD are considering whether to make an application for costs against Mr Bradley.
Bradley Martin said his troubles at work began when he was spotted taking part in an Orange Order memorial service.
Mr Martin claims he became aware his membership was public knowledge when he was approached by work colleagues who commented on seeing him on television.
“It was my right to keep it private and I did keep it private,” he said. Thanking the work colleagues who gave evidence supporting his case, Mr Martin added: “It was very brave of them to stand up and tell the truth.”
The head of DSD, Minister Nelson McCausland, is also a member of the Orange Order.
Commenting on the tribunal outcome, a spokesman for the Order said: “Grand Lodge is disappointed by the verdict in this case. However, in our view, issues have been raised during this tribunal which require further exploration.”