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Woman who said she was bullied and humiliated at work settles claim

Susanne Rice said she was bullied and humiliated by senior, male staff (Equality Commission/PA)
Susanne Rice said she was bullied and humiliated by senior, male staff (Equality Commission/PA)

A woman has described how older male colleagues made her feel bullied and humiliated at a web development agency in Belfast.

Susanne Rice, 36, a former operations manager with Flint Studios Ltd, has settled her claims of sex and age discrimination against her former employer for £15,000, paid without admission of liability.

The Equality Commission, which supported Ms Rice, described her as the only woman on the firm’s senior leadership team.

Ms Rice discovered she was pregnant at the end of January 2020, but did not disclose her pregnancy to her employer at an early stage because of her medical history.

Susanne Rice with her daughter Isobella (EqualityCommission/PA)

Following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, Ms Rice received a letter from her GP advising her to shield as a pregnant woman.

In April, Ms Rice’s employer asked for a copy of the letter. She was then invited to a meeting on May 21, at which she was told a redundancy process was starting.

Shortly after this meeting, Ms Rice told her employers that she was 20 weeks pregnant. She was then told of her redundancy on May 29 and her contract was terminated on June 1.

Ms Rice said she raised grievances with her employer, but these were not upheld and a further appeal was also dismissed.

She went on to describe how she felt she was ignored when she raised concerns and made some suggestions for improvement around management issues.

In addition, she described feeling uncomfortable with the way she was treated by other, senior, male staff, adding she believed she was treated this way because she was a woman and also because she was young.

Ms Rice has alleged she was excluded her from emails and meetings, preventing her from carrying out her job to the best of her ability.

When she was demonstrating new software, she alleged that a male colleague said to her: “I am older than you, I have more experience than you and so I know better”.

She said: “I went into this job with an enthusiastic commitment to help the company achieve its goals. I felt my professional contribution was ignored, and that I had been bullied, and I felt upset and humiliated at the way I was spoken to by senior management in front of other staff.

“The way my redundancy was handled severely affected my health and our family finances.

“However, I’ve moved on and am happy in my new workplace. I feel my skills are valued there and I’m now enjoying my work and my family life”.

Mary Kitson, senior legal officer, Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, said all employers should be committed to diversity in the workplace.

“It should be led from the top and understood by all employees,” she said.

“A genuinely progressive organisation will carry out its legal responsibilities and provide equal opportunities.

“It will not stereotype and exclude women and will ensure that pregnant employees feel welcome and valued in the workplace.

“Promoting equality for women at work is a priority for the commission, and a particular focus is encouraging women to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“We are delighted that Susanne is now working in a role where she feels valued and is able to give her best at work, while balancing her family life. This should be possible for all women.”

The case settled before it went to hearing.