24 October 2011
In August 2008 Jacqueline Cartner, a Chief Petty Officer in the Royal Navy, took a claim for sex discrimination to the Southampton Employment Tribunal.
Mrs Cartner made her claim on the basis that she had been passed over for promotion despite an exemplary record which included being chosen as NATO’s Military Member of the Year in 2000, the first UK woman to receive this award, and having been made an MBE in 2001, one of only four Royal Navy Servicewomen in the previous 10 years (compared to over 300 men).
The employment tribunal ruled that the Navy had discriminated against her on grounds of her sex. The tribunal described the Navy’s promotion procedure as 'primitive' and said that at least one of the men promoted was an 'inferior' candidate to Mrs Cartner.
In January 2011 the Ministry of Defence unsuccessfully appealed this decision to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT). The MoD has now appealed again, this time to the Court of Appeal. London law firm Leigh Day & Co are representing Mrs Cartner, seeking that the Court of Appeal upholds and confirms the EAT’s decision.
Rachel Irwin, a solicitor at Leigh Day & Co who represents Mrs Cartner said:
"Sadly we see many cases of competent women who are passed over for promotion in favour of less qualified men. Following the discrimination Jacqueline felt she could not continue working for the Royal Navy. It is such a waste that a high performing employee has lost her career and the Navy has lost a competent Non-Commissioned Officer."
Jacqueline has not yet received any compensation and this will be for a tribunal to decide.
There are less than 10 major warships at sea at any one time. Each carries an average of 200–300 staff. About 5% of the Royal Navy are at sea at any one time and the rest are in active service on land.
In 1988 Jacqueline Cartner joined the non-seagoing Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS), which was absorbed two years later into the Royal Navy. Crucially, at the time of the merger Mrs Cartner, along with all other former Wrens, was given the option of whether to become seagoing or to remain on her previous non-seagoing terms of employment. She was assured that if she opted to remain non-seagoing this would not prejudice her promotion prospects. She, like the majority of the Wrens at the time, opted to retain non-seagoing status. Mrs Cartner went on to have a highly successful career in the Navy. She was promoted quickly up through the ranks and had excellent appraisal reports.
Mrs Cartner competed for promotion to the rank of Warrant Officer, the highest non-commissioned rank she could achieve. By the time of the tribunal claim, Mrs Cartner had already been acting up as a Warrant Officer for two years and had been given an ‘A’ grade and so had proved that she could do the job. But she was not promoted. Only men were promoted.
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