SECTION 21, EMPLOYMENT EQUALITY ACT, 1977
CO. LAOIS VEC
(REPRESENTED BY IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
(REPRESENTED BY THE TEACHERS' UNION OF IRELAND)
Chairman: Ms Owens
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Mr Rorke
1. Appeal against Equality Officer's Recommendation No. EE15/96.
2. The appeal concerns the worker who claims that the VEC discriminated against her on grounds of sex in not appointing her to an 'A' post of responsibility.
A permanent 'A' post of responsibility became vacant in Rathdowney, Co. Laois. There were three applicants for the job, two female and one male, including the worker concerned. The interviews took place on the 14th November, 1994.
The male candidate was successful for the post. The VEC claims that two of the questions which were asked of each candidate were particularly crucial in influencing the decision of the interview board members. The two questions were:-
(1) Do you see the 'A' post holder as part of the management team?
(2) Who would you support in a conflict between a teacher and a pupil?
The VEC claims that the worker's answers - to the first question she stated that she did not see an 'A' post-holder as part of the management team, and to the second question she stated that she would always support her colleague - were not what was expected and decided that she would not be suitable for the post.
The Union claims that the worker was better qualified for the post than the successful candidate (a full list of the worker's qualifications was supplied to the Court). Full details of the case are contained in the Equality Officer's recommendation.
The worker referred her case to the Labour Court under the Employment Equality Act, 1977, and the Court referred it to an Equality Officer for investigation. The Equality Officer, in her recommendation, found that the VEC had discriminated against the worker in terms of Section 2 of the Act and contrary to Section 3 of the Act. The Equality Officer recommended that the worker be appointed to the 'A' post with effect from November, 1994 - when the other appointment was made - and that she be paid retrospectively from that date. The Equality Officer further recommended that the worker be paid the sum of £2,500 in compensation for the stress caused to her by the discrimination.
Both parties appealed the recommendation. The Union appealed on the 21st August, 1996 for a Determination that the recommendation had not been implemented. The VEC appealed on the following grounds:-
- (1) that the Equality Officer erred in law and in fact in concluding that Co. Laois VEC discriminated against the worker on grounds of sex in not appointing her to an 'A' post of responsibility on November 14, 1994.
(2) Any other grounds of appeal which arise during the course of the investigation.
The Court has considered at length the written submissions of the parties. It has also taken account of the oral submissions and of the arguments which arose in the course of the hearing.
The Court is satisfied that the claimant established that she was the more suitable candidate for the post in question. She had served very successfully already in the ‘A’ post for which she was a candidate. She also had experience in a ‘B’ post. By comparison, the successful candidate did have ‘B’ post experience, but had no experience in an ‘A’ post. In addition, the claimant had superior work experience and qualifications to those of the appointee.
In the Court’s opinion, these factors should have been very relevant to the interview board when considering the suitability of the candidates for the ‘A’ post position. The VEC has argued the contrary. However, the Court is satisfied that the failure to appoint the claimant in the circumstances that a less qualified and less experienced male was preferred over a more qualified and more experienced female raised an inference of discrimination. It was incumbent on the VEC in those circumstances to justify the appointment of the male candidate by factors unrelated to sex.
In its justification, the VEC sought mainly to rely on answers which were given to two questions in the course of the interviews. It is claimed that the answers from the applicants for the position demonstrated that the successful candidate had better management potential than that of the claimant. The Court does not accept the VEC’s case. There is no evidence that these questions were given such importance at the interviews as to have made them deciding factors; furthermore, the amount of time claimed to have been devoted to them does not indicate that they were treated with any serious relevance by the interview panel.
The VEC has failed to satisfy the Court that there were valid reasons other than sex for discriminating against the claimant by failing to appoint her to a postion for which she had superior qualifications and experience to the male appointee.
In the circumstances, the Court agrees with the Recommendation of the Equality Officer. The Court holds that the VEC did discriminate against the claimant. It recommends that she be offered an ‘A’ post with effect from November 1994, and that she be paid in full the necessary adjustment in salary and any other benefits applying to the post, accruing with effect from that date. The Court further awards compensation in the sum of £2,500 to the claimant.
The Court will make an order giving effect to this Determination.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
28th April , 1997______________________
Enquiries concerning this Determination should be addressed to Ciaran O'Neill, Court Secretary.