Guinness Storehouse to pay compensation after interview ‘age bias’

Woman was asked during interview how she would settle into ‘young’ workplace

WRC adjudication officer, Roger McGrath said there was no doubt that Eileen Owens was asked about how she would settle into a ‘young’ workplace.

WRC adjudication officer, Roger McGrath said there was no doubt that Eileen Owens was asked about how she would settle into a ‘young’ workplace.

 

The operators of the country’s top fee-paying tourist attraction must pay out after an unsuccessful job applicant was asked at interview how she would settle into a ‘young’ workplace.

In the case, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has ordered the Guinness Storehouse Ltd to pay Eileen Owens €2,000 after it ruled that the question discriminated against Ms Owens on the grounds of age.

WRC adjudication officer, Roger McGrath said there was no doubt that Ms Owens was asked about how she would settle into a “young” workplace.

“I can think of no reason why this question would be asked except to find out the complainant’s view of her ability to carry out the role of financial assistant given her relative age,” he said.

“Whether conscious or unconscious this question indicates that age was a factor in the selection process, with a bias towards younger candidates.”

Ms Owens was one of 136 candidates that applied for the role of financial assistant and nine were called for interview.

Mr McGrath stated that a younger candidate was successful and he found that Ms Owens was treated less favourably than a younger candidate comparator.

Mr McGrath rejected the Guinness Storehouse contention that the question asked at interview about the “young and vibrant” work environment did not indicate an intention to discriminate against Ms Owens on age and that Ms Owens was reading too much into a few words.

At hearing, Ms Owens said she lodged her claim as a matter of principle and to prevent things like this happening in the future.

She said she answered the question by saying “I’m young at heart, I don’t look my age, I have a 24-year-old daughter, I am experienced at work and work well with all colleagues, regardless of age”.

Ms Owens stated she felt very aggrieved by how the interview was conducted and said it has left her feeling very apprehensive when attending other interviews.

After Ms Owens failed to get the post, the Guinness Storehouse told her the interview panel felt she was “over qualified” but would be positive towards her for any future more senior financial roles.

The firm denied it had discriminated against Ms Owens. The interviewer accepted that that she had asked a question using the word ‘young’ and this was in reference to the culture of the workplace.

At the hearing, when asked what exactly she meant by young, the interviewer said she should have just said ‘fast-paced’. She said it had no impact on the selection.