Deputy principal awarded €93k after school passed over her for less qualified male candidate

A primary school has been ordered to pay a deputy principal €93,498 compensation after it discriminated against her because she is a woman in a contest with a male colleague for a school principal’s post.

Deputy principal awarded €93k after school passed over her for less qualified male candidate

A primary school has been ordered to pay a deputy principal €93,498 compensation after it discriminated against her because she is a woman in a contest with a male colleague for a school principal’s post.

In the case, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has ordered the Board of Management of Scoil Mhuire agus Iosaf Junior School pay Pamela Brennan €93,498.

Employed at the school in Collooney, Co Sligo, Ms Brennan has superior academic qualification and more relevant teaching experience than the successful male candidate for the post.

WRC Adjudication Officer, Emer O’Shea noted that the award - equivalent of 78 weeks pay - is a sanction that is required to have a real deterrent effect and be effective, proportionate and dissuasive.

Ms Brennan complained at the WRC in her case taken under the Employment Equality Act that she first heard that she didn’t get the job via local chat on the golf course.

In her findings relating to the male candidate beating Ms Brennan to the job through obtaining a higher score at interview, Ms O’Shea said: “I find on the balance of probabilities that the process was tainted with discrimination on gender grounds.”

Ms O’Shea said that the school Board of Management (BOM) has not provided a convincing and transparent rationale for their scoring at interview.

Ms Brennan scored 249 marks at interview while the successful candidate scored 273.

Ms O’Shea said that she found the evidence of the chairman of the interview/selection panel “to be unconvincing and inconsistent”.

She said that the interview panel chairman altered Ms Brennan’s marks to her detriment by two points and could not recall the basis for doing so.

The Adjudication Officer also found that the interview chairman took significantly more notes of the successful candidate's answers and recorded three words with respect to Ms Brennan – Leadership, Administration and Vision.

Ms O’Shea said that she was satisfied that Ms Brennan had superior academic qualifications and more relevant experience than the male candidate for the position of School Principal.

She noted that Ms Brennan had an Honours B. Ed Degree and a Higher Diploma while the successful candidate had a BA in English and Philosophy and a Higher Diploma.

She said that Ms Brennan had 12 years accredited service as a primary teacher while the successful candidate had 10 years according to his CV.

Ms O’Shea further noted that Ms Brennan had five years experience as a Deputy Principal while the successful candidate acted as Deputy Principal from January 25, 2018, to February 2018 and shared acting Principal duties for around four months to June 5, 2018, when Ms Brennan returned prematurely from maternity leave.

In her direct evidence at hearing, Ms Brennan asserted that there was no justification for the marking by the selection board, given her qualifications and experience and questioned how the successful candidate could have scored higher than her in nine of 10 the criteria adopted by the Board.

Ms Brennan said that when asked for an explanation as to how the appointed candidate outscored her at interview “I did not receive one”.

In response, the school BOM contended that the successful candidate performed better at interview than Ms Brennan and that gender was not a consideration and a fair assessment was carried out.

In his direct evidence, the BOM Chairman submitted that he had been conducting interviews since 1973 and that he treated all candidates equally.

The BOM said it observed in full the Dept of Education procedures for the appointment of Principal Teachers.

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