Capt Diane Byrne went on maternity leave in late 2012 and unknown to her when she was on additional unpaid maternity leave, four male colleagues were promoted in August 2013. Ms Byrne outlined that she had completed the relevant nine years service in the rank of Captain as well as completing various relevant courses and under the Defence Force Regulations she was entitled to a fixed period promotion. Participation in an interview process was also a condition attaching to being promoted and Ms Byrne was not invited to or made aware that the promotions interview board was being convened.
Justice Eagar did not accept the position of the Defence Forces that Ms Byrne was ineligible for promotion as she had not completed certain courses and accepted Ms Byrne's arguments that the courses relied on were not essential to her duties.
Justice Eagar also rejected the argument that Ms Byrne should have pursued her complaint via an internal Defence Forces mechanism and said it would not have offered adequate remedy to her and determined that she was entitled to a judicial review and damages for loss of earnings from the date that she qualified for promotion to Commandant in May 2013.
All employers should note the necessity of ensuring that employees who are on maternity leave or other forms of protected leave are not excluded from internal promotion opportunities that arise during their periods of leave and employees should always be communicated with about such matters in the same manner as employees present at work.