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Council accused of religious discrimination

9 March 2006

A landmark employment tribunal case ruled in favour of a non-religious employee yesterday following his claims of discrimination over not being considered for promotion.

Teacher David McNab, an atheist, took Glasgow City Council to tribunal - the first such case of its kind - and was yesterday awarded £2,000 in compensation. Mr McNab, a teacher at St Paul's Roman Catholic High School, had wanted a promoted pastoral care teaching post.

He told the tribunal that the decision not to consider him for promotion had made him feel like a second-class citizen. Head teacher Robert O'Donnell had told him he could not be considered for the job because it required Catholic approval. The city council had argued that Roman Catholic beliefs were a genuine requirement for the post and denied discrimination.

Speaking about the judgment, Mr McNab said that common sense had prevailed. The ruling could have implications for future appointments at Roman Catholic schools.

The tribunal heard that the Catholic church had drawn up a list of reserved roles that had to be filled by people it approved. Although this did not include pastoral care teachers, the city council claimed this post replaced guidance teachers who would be expected to follow Catholic thinking on sensitive issues such as contraception and abortion.

In the tribunal's written judgment, chairman Roderick MacKenzie said Mr McNab had been unlawfully discriminated against, contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights.

A spokesperson for the Catholic church said the judgment was "surprising", and one that would need to be studied in detail.