An award of €40,000 for victimisation of a senior civil servant in the Department of Def­ence was overturned by the Labour Court in a ruling published last week.

Tom Barrett is a humanist, a philosophy which believes the happiness of mankind depends on people rather than religion.

Barrett had objected to the saying of mass on the department's premises and to a presentation paid for by public funds to an army chaplain on the occasion of his appointment as a bishop.

He argued to the Equality Tribunal that the department was endowing a particular religion and that this was contrary to the constitution.

Barrett also said he was bullied by his supervisor after making the claim to the tribunal. He said he was left in an office on his own with no meaningful work to do and in increasing isolation from his colleagues.

Though Barrett's salary as a senior manager is €82,500, he said he had no files on his desk. He said he was "white-walled" and "treated like a pariah".

In June 2009, equality officer Stephen Bonnlander dismissed Barrett's claim of religious discrimination but upheld his claim of victimisation and awarded him €40,000 for the "stress endured".

The department appealed Bonnlander's findings to the Labour Court and in a rare occurrence, court chairman Kevin Duffy overturned the award.

Duffy pointed out that the saying of mass and the presentation to the bishop had "no effect whatsoever" on Barrett and was not discrimination.

Duffy also said that many of the claims of bullying and harassment had allegedly taken place a few years before he made his discrimination claim and therefore could not be related to the discrimination case. Duffy also said that another claim by Barrett – that he had the responsibility for taking notes withdrawn – happened a year after the claim was lodged. No evidence was presented of even the "slightest connection" between that and the taking of the discrimination case.

"The complaint of victimisation is unsustainable in law," said Duffy. Barrett had also appealed Bonnlander's €40,000 award on the basis that it was insufficient, but this appeal automatically fell.

The Department of Defence had no comment to make on the case.