- Posted by Olivia Hande
- On August 12, 2016
- Discrimination, Employment, Equality, Gender
In the second piece of our equality series, former Equality Officer Bernadette Treanor discusses a case regarding gender and access to employment which provided a sound-bite worthy of the tabloid press; “down and dirty with the men”, which attracted the maximum award for such claims.
DEC-E2016-066 – Ms. A v A Social Enterprise
Issues: Gender, access to employment, selection process, vicarious liability
The complainant is a highly qualified mediator, trainer, facilitator and life-skills coach who applied for a position of life planning coordinator with an organisation for suicide prevention. The selection process appears to have been multi-tiered but the complainant was invited to an interactive meeting with users. After the meeting, she received a call from Mr. A (a consultant working with the prospective employer and the architect of the process used by the organisation with users) who had been at the meeting in the guise of a user. She alleged he told her that how she dressed for such meetings was important, that he preferred women to dress less formally. He allegedly went on to say he didn’t know if she could get down and dirty with the men and the complainant alleged he repeated this comment on another occasion. The complainant’s perception was that he was attempting to dissuade her from the position and he made it clear he was the main influencer as to who would get the job.
Following this first meeting, there were two candidates remaining, the complainant and another male candidate. Mr. A proceeded to ‘mentor’ the candidates. Under the heading of Equality Officer’s Conclusions, in sections 4.9 and 4.10 new evidence is introduced not presented under either the complainant or respondent evidence. However, it appears the complainant alleged that Mr. A asked to meet for coffee and that she initially agreed. Subsequently, in light of his comments about getting down and dirty with the men she felt this entire call was sinister. A subsequent facilitation with users took place which the complainant found the most humiliating experience of her professional life. Ultimately the male candidate was awarded the position.
The Equality Officer found as follows:
Overall, I am satisfied from the totality of the evidence before me that under the guise of “mentoring” both candidates, Mr. A. set out to undermine the complainant’s professional confidence to such an extent that she would not succeed at the second facilitation, and that he very much did so in a gender-based way and also for gender-based reasons, that is, preferring her male competitor. Given that the respondent accepts that it delegated the mentoring task to Mr. A. – even though the relevant people in the respondent organisation may not have anticipated his actions, and in particular Ms. B. may have sadly misplaced her trust in him – it remains vicariously liable for his treatment of the complainant. The complainant is therefore entitled to succeed.
The complainant was awarded €13,000 the Equality Officer stating this was the maximum he could award in the circumstances, an access to employment claim.