A CLARE man was awarded €20,000, after being unlawfully discriminated against on the grounds of age at a job interview.Quin man Dave Barry, who managed the Clooney-Quin senior hurlers to last year’s county final, brought a case under the Employment Equality Act against Solas, the Further Education and Training (FET) Authority in Ireland. Mr Barry was represented at the hearing by Pat O’Donoghue of SIPTU, while Katie Doyle of IBEC appeared for Solas.
Mr Barry applied for and was interviewed for the position of assistant manager in the Limerick Training Centre in 2014. The complainant, who was aged 60, claimed he was asked at interview, ‘Do you think at this stage you should be taking it easier?’
The question was asked by a woman referred to only as Ms C in the published summary. The summary stated that Mr Barry said he could not sleep the night after the interview, as he felt an injustice had been done.
“He submits that he is not the type of person to complain about things. His years of playing sport, as well as managing and coaching sporting teams, has taught him to ‘take his beating’. But this was a bridge too far. He submitted that he had five years of working life before retirement (and longer if they let him). He states that he is still full of energy,” the report adds. Formal grievance procedures were put in place but no resolution was found.
The summary said it had subsequently been denied that the question was asked. “The respondent denies that this question was asked. The respondent maintains what was asked is ‘what motivates you to take on this role at this stage in your career?’. The respondent submits that this was because the complainant was not portraying his previous experience to his advantage at the interview.”
Equality officer/adjudication officer Orlaith Mannion’s determination described Mr Barry as a “compelling witness” and accepted his version of events.
“I fully accept his evidence that the question was asked in the way he suggests. From when he first raised the issue, this question was the kernel of his complaint. Unlike the respondent, his memory of what was asked never deviated. He also had previously gone for promotion and was not successful but accepted the result.
“It is clear that Mr Barry’s complaint was made in good faith. Even the softened version that the respondent argued at the hearing that was asked is potentially discriminatory – ‘what motivates you to take on this role at this stage in your career? – especially when the witnesses for the respondent admitted it was not asked of all candidates,” she said.
“While I accept that a job interview is a different crucible to media interviews (the complainant would have given many media interviews as selector to the county camogie team and as a club manager) or giving evidence at a hearing, I find it hard to believe that he was not performing well at the interview. Consequently, I find the reason Ms C supposedly asked the question less than credible. Therefore, I find that the question ‘Do you think at this stage you should be taking things easier?’ in the context of an interview for a promotion is a discriminatory question on the ground of age. I can also easily understand how it would deflate the complainant for the rest of the interview.”
The respondent was ordered to pay Mr Barry €20,000 compensation and to carry out a review of its policies and procedures in relation to employment policies.
By Owen Ryan