€20k award for age discrimination

A Solas employee who says he was asked, in a job promotion interview, “Do you think, at this stage, that you should be taking it easier”, has been awarded €20,000 for discrimination.

The Workplace Relations Commission heard that Dave Barry had worked for the organisation as an information technology instructor since 1985.

He was interviewed for the position of assistant manager in the Limerick Training Centre on April 14, 2014. Mr Barry, who was aged 60 at the time, said one of the interview panel, Ms C — a member of Limerick Clare Education and Training Board — asked him: “Do you think, at this stage, that you should be taking it easier?”

He said the question deflated him, as he interpreted it as a reference to his age.

He had previously “acted up” as an assistant manager for two periods and this enhanced his budget-management experience. He also had helped other assistant managers with budgets. Financial accounting was a module in his degree in IT.

Mr Barry also said that, in summarising his educational qualifications on the interview assessment sheet, the panel only noted his oldest third-level qualification — a BA in maths and education — but did not acknowledge a subsequent postgraduate qualification in computer systems and a degree in information technology (NFQ Level 8). Instead, the form said he had completed “various CPD courses”.

Solas denied the question was asked and said what was asked was “what motivates you to take on this role, at this stage in your career?” It also said the marking was based on his performance at interview, not his application form.

Orlaith Mannion, the WRC’s equality officer, said she accepted Mr Barry’s evidence that the question was asked in the way he suggested. She said it was a discriminatory question, on the ground of age.

Ms Mannion also said it was her experience, when assessing whether promotion competitions are conducted in a discriminatory way or not, that interview panels tend to minimise qualifications and work history of candidates they perceive to be “also-rans”.

“This appears to be the case here,” she said. She said that Solas, as the State organisation responsible for funding, planning, and co-ordinating further education and training in Ireland, should be more conscious of avoiding age-discriminatory practices.


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