A woman has been awarded €45,000 after a man who repeatedly failed his accountancy exams got a job ahead of her. Susan O'Kelly was discriminated against by WYG Engineering because she was a married woman with a young child, the Equality Tribunal ruled.
The company’s finance director “stared out the window and yawned on several occasions” during her interview for finance manager on July 2010, Ms O’Kelly told the tribunal. On two previous occasions in the months before the job interview he had asked her how many children she had.
She had nine years’ experience at the company and was a fully qualified accountant when she went for the job. The man who got the job had just four years’ service with the company and “was repeating various exams of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants which he had failed on numerous attempts”, the tribunal found.
Until this point Ms O’Kelly had received “excellent appraisals” from her line manager, she told the tribunal.
She was told she did not get the job because she was “technically less competent than the other, part-qualified male candidate”.
Notes taken during the interview which she had requested showed that on an issue on which she scored low points there was a different answer written down to the one she had in fact given. The notes suggested she had referred to the concept of depreciation and the method of assessing the cost of an asset over time, when in fact she had not used this example as she rarely dealt with this issue.
Ms O’Kelly told the tribunal “that the selection process was flawed and that marks were manipulated in order to give the post to the male candidate”.
She was made redundant in August 2010. WYG Engineering has been in liquidation since 2012.
The company disputed that Ms O’Kelly was discriminated against. The finance director asked Ms O’Kelly about her family in a way that was “entirely appropriate and consistent with the type of conversation” he had with all employees, the company said.
All three interviewers were married with children – two were working mothers, it added. The role Ms O'Kelly applied for did not require a fully qualified accountant but someone with "a certain level of technical and behavioural competency".
In the interview some of the questions put to Ms O’Kelly had to be “re-phrased a number of times before she could provide an answer”. For other questions she “was unable to give an adequate response”.
She referred to previous examples given and did not meet the “financial acumen” required for the post. “At one point during the interview, the complainant herself noted that she lacked the in-depth knowledge of the position the respondent was attempting to fill,” the company added.
But the Equality Tribunal found there had been discrimination and awarded her a year’s salary “by way of compensation for the distress suffered and the effects of the discriminatory treatment on her”.
In a separate, case a woman who returned from maternity leave to new duties was awarded €11,700. The tribunal found that Anne Power "received inadequate support to assimilate her into her new tasks" in Jahan Company, trading as Irema, which makes medical face masks, and did not ensure she returned to an "an equivalent post", as dictated by legislation.