Woman is awarded £1,000 by court for discrimination

 

A woman who was asked at a job interview if she typed is to be awarded £1,000 in compensation, the Labour Court has determined.

The court held that a Dublin Corporation interview board had discriminated against legal assistant Ms J. McCarthy "in putting the offending question" - within the meaning of Section 2(a) and contrary to Section 3(1) of the 1977 Employment Equality Act: "The Court determines that the appropriate redress is compensation for the distress suffered." It awarded her £1,000.

The court deputy chairman, Mr Kevin Duffy, so recommended, following an appeal by Dublin Corporation against the findings of a Labour Court equality officer, issued on February 3rd - and Ms McCarthy's own appeal that that decision had not been implemented.

The corporation's case was that the equality officer had "erred in law" in finding that it had discriminated against Ms McCarthy on a number of grounds. Specifically, it took issue with the equality officer's recommendation that she be offered the post of senior legal assistant for which she had applied.

Ms McCarthy, in her original complaint, had claimed the reason she was unsuccessful in her interview for the position of senior legal assistant was that she had been discriminated against on grounds of sex.

In substance, it was alleged that in the course of being questioned about her work as a law clerk in a previous employment, she was asked if she did typing, the court was told. "A male applicant who had also been employed previously as a law clerk was not asked this question." This, it was claimed, indicated that the interview board had shown a negative disposition towards the value of the claimant's work based on her gender.

It was also alleged that Ms McCarthy was not given a fair interview because she was not asked any in-depth questions about her current work in conveyancing. Neither was she asked about litigation or given an opportunity to expand on her leadership qualities.

Ms McCarthy submitted that the posts were in the conveyancing department and that she was the most experienced candidate in this aspect of the work. In the event, two male applicants were promoted to senior legal assistant, who, she contended "were less qualified than her for the post".

The corporation conceded that the "offending question concerning typing" was asked, but pleaded that this was for the purpose of "establishing the range of duties attaching to the position of law clerk in a private practice, which the claimant had occupied some 14 years previously".

It argued, however, that the position for which the interviews were held was not specifically for the conveyancing department, and in fact covered "both conveyancing and litigation".

Mr Duffy, in making his determination, accepted that a male candidate with similar work experience was not asked whether he did typing. The court was satisfied Ms McCarthy was asked this question because she was a woman.

He found the equality officer's recommendation that Ms McCarthy be appointed to the position "cannot stand".