The Equality Tribunal has found that a National School teacher was discriminated against on the grounds of age, religion and sexual orientation when she applied for a job as Principal and was awarded €54,000 (equivalent to one year’s salary) in compensation.

Background

The teacher had been working as a Deputy Principal at the school for eight years when she applied for the position of Principal.

During the interview the teacher was asked questions about her personal religious outlook. The teacher also alleged that she was asked for her views on teachers who were “Homos”. The teacher submitted to the Tribunal that she was “floored” by this question and so flustered overall that the remainder of the interviewer’s questions after that were a blur.

The teacher also claimed that she was discriminated against on the ground of age as the colleague who was subsequently hired as Principal was considerably younger and less experienced than her.  Both candidates were awarded equal marks for qualifications and experience, despite the colleague neither having experience as a Deputy Principal nor holding a postgraduate degree.

Lessons for the School

The Tribunal accepted that the teacher had been asked discriminatory questions regarding religion and sexual orientation and that she had been discriminated against on the ground of age in relation to access to promotion.  

In reaching its decision the Tribunal made reference to the fact that the interview criteria for the candidates had not been drawn up in advance of the interviews and that some members of the interview panel threw their interview notes away. It stated that such actions constitute poor practice in the hiring and promotion process.

The Tribunal ordered that the school pay the teacher €54,000 (one year’s salary) in compensation for the distress suffered.

This case highlights the necessity of providing training to anyone sitting on an interview panel.  Application forms and interview questions should be equality-proofed.  Ideally, candidates should be asked the same or similar questions.  Interview notes should be safely retained and an objective marking method should be agreed in advance by the panel.