The WRC decision in this article is bang on point. The case arose from the Minister of State John Halligan asking a high ranking civil servant if she was married or had children during a job interview. This was held to be discriminatory and resulted in a government department paying out over €7,500 in compensation.
Let's be clear. It is not appropriate to ask any person in an interview whether they are married or have children. In this day and age it was silly question for the minister to ask. It's a question that would leave any interviewee uncomfortable about what the answer means for their potential employment.
From many perspectives this question should not have been asked but there also the legal issues to consider. Before you even decide whether to hire someone there is the potential for a discrimination claim to be brought against an employer in respect of the recruitment process used.
Employers need to be careful in all aspects of the recruitment process including everything from how the position is advertised, the application from to be completed by the candidates, to the ultimate decision to select a successful candidate.
Under the Data Protection Acts 1988-2003 (and the fast approaching General Data Protection Regulation) an unsuccessful candidate can seek the notes and data kept on them during the recruitment process. These notes could then be used to look for something that could infer discrimination against the applicant and give them grounds for a claim. Therefore an employer should be careful when taking notes and asking questions.
The Employment Equality Acts 1998 – 2015 outlaw discrimination in recruitment and selection as well as during employment. Discrimination can be direct or indirect under the acts and means treating one person in a less favourable way than another person on any of the nine grounds as follows:
2. Marital or Civil Status
3. Family Status
4. Sexual Orientation
7. Membership of the Travelling Community
A non-employee who is successful in a claim under the legislation can be awarded up to €12,697. For employees this award can be up to 2 years remuneration.
As can been seen from this article, these cases also tend to attract media attention which can have a detrimental effect on an organisation’s public image and brand.
We have prepared a handy list of Interview Do’s and Don’ts for Employers when preparing for interviews. These tips should help employers and the managers conducting interviews in avoiding claims from unsuccessful applicants. The checklist was prepared a few years ago but is clearly still 100% relevant today!
To access the checklist please click on the link below:
If you need advice on any employment law or data protection matter please contact a member of our Employment Law & Data Protection Team:
Disclaimer: This article is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal or professional advice. No liability is accepted by Leman Solicitors for any action taken or not taken in reliance on the information set out in this publication. Professional or legal advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this publication. Any and all information is subject to change.
No parties are named and at the interview, the junior minister said to her “I shouldn’t be asking you this, but…. Are you a married woman?’ Do you have children? How old are your children?”. Taken off guard, the female official answered the questions – she confirmed that she was married and that she was the mother of two children and she indicated their ages. In reply, the minister observed “you must be very busy”. At a Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) hearing into the official’s claim of discrimination under the Employment Equality Acts, the junior minister’s words at the interview were neither challenged or denied.