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'Toxic environment' Law lecturer to give €45K compensation to charity after taking cases against 'toxic' WIT

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Dr Kathleen Moore Walsh with her husband Peter and dog Lassie

Dr Kathleen Moore Walsh with her husband Peter and dog Lassie

Dr Kathleen Moore Walsh with her husband Peter and dog Lassie

Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) “is the most toxic work environment” a three-time victimised law lecturer there has ever experienced.

Last week, criminal law lecturer, Dr Kathleen Moore Walsh was successful in securing her third separate victimisation workplace award against WIT bringing to a total of €45,000 WIT has been ordered to pay the US national in victimisation compensation since 2004.

WIT has the right to appeal the latest Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) €25,000 award and ruling to the Labour Court, but Dr Moore Walsh confirmed on Monday that if she receives the award she intends to donate the money to charity as she has done with the previous awards.

She said: “It has never been about the money. It has always been about equal opportunity to progress.”

In making the €25,000 award, WRC Adjudicator, Breiffni O’Neill noted that the previous two awards “do not appear to have had the desired objective of being dissuasive” as Dr Moore Walsh “has once again been victimised."

In an interview on the outcome of the case, Dr Moore Walsh stated: “I know my career was stunted and I just hope that changes are made so that other women don’t find themselves in this position - that if they raise an equality issue they don't get slammed for raising the issue.”

Dr Moore Walsh said that she felt vindicated by the WRC ruling.

She said: “Vindication, in that an employee shouldn't be punished for raising an equality issue and I think it was a legitimate issue that I raised.”

She said: "I am very happy with the finding that I was victimised - again.”

Employed at WIT since 1997, Dr Moore Walsh confirmed that she has taken six separate workplace relations cases against WIT since 2004.

Asked if she will be viewed as being a "trouble-maker", Dr Moore Walsh laughed for a moment and said: “I think that happened a long time ago. I think I was branded ‘a trouble maker’ at the very beginning and it just stuck.”

On the various cases taken over the years, Dr Moore Walsh said: “It has been a long slog but nothing has really improved and although WIT is an institute of higher education it does not learn lessons.”

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Underlining the point, Dr Moore Walsh stated: "My third case I settled it for an equality review and WIT did the equality review but they never implemented the expert’s suggestions or recommendations particularly with regard to interviewing which is what led to Case 5 which led to Case 6.”

Asked what it is like going into work each day, Dr Moore Walsh said: “It is often difficult. WIT is the most toxic work environment I have ever experienced. I used to think things would get better, but they have not.

"However, I work with some very decent people who are very supportive so that is good."

The US lawyer said that the worst thing is that there is no accountability of WIT’s actions.

She said: "If this was a private company paying their own way victimisation probably wouldn’t happen over and over and lessons would be learned, but WIT instead uses the resources of the State against employees to defend what I consider the indefensible… victimisation.”

Dr Moore Walsh stated: "There is no transparency and no accountability even after findings.”

A native of southern Illinois and a holder of two law doctorates including one in victimology from UCC, Dr Moore Walsh came to Ireland in 1995 after falling in love with a south Kilkenny dairy farmer, Peter Walsh they met previously during a "bucket list" holiday to Ireland with her terminally ill mother.

Dr Moore Walsh said that she doesn’t see herself as a "pathfinder" improving female employees’ experience in the workplace.

She said: “No. I don’t see myself in that role but I think when you find something wrong and you want it to be fixed, you have to raise it. Unfortunately, my raising of equality issues or problems resulted in adverse treatment or victimisation which probably serves and continues to keep others from raising issues.”

Asked to respond to Dr Moore Walsh's comments, a spokeswoman for WIT said on Monday: “Waterford Institute of Technology does not comment on matters relating to individual staff members.”

The spokeswoman added: “The institute is fully committed to fostering a work environment that promotes dignity and respect across the institute for all staff and students.

“We promote this in many ways – in our everyday interactions, through training and notably through our policies, including, in particular, our dignity and respect policy.”

WIT didn’t respond to query if it intends to appeal the WRC award or not to the Labour Court.

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