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Primary school told to pay €94,000 to deputy principal in gender discrimination case

The WRC said the school had discriminated against her in the interview process for a principal post.

Image: Shutterstock/Vereshchagin Dmitry

A PRIMARY SCHOOL in Sligo has been ordered to pay a deputy principal nearly €94,000 in compensation after it discriminated against her because she is a woman in a contest 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 in Sligo to pay Pamela Brennan €93,498.

Employed at the school, Brennan had superior academic qualifications 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.

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 from local conversation on the golf course.

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

O’Shea said that the school’s board of management has not provided a convincing and transparent rationale for their scoring at interview.

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

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

O’Shea stated that the interview panel chairman altered 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 Brennan – leadership, administration and vision.

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

O’Shea noted that Brennan had a better academic qualifications for the role and that she had 12 years accredited service as a primary teacher while the successful candidate had 10 years.

O’Shea added that Brennan had five years experience as a deputy principal.

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The successful candidate had acted as deputy principal from 25 January to February 2018 and shared acting principal duties for around four months to 5 June 2018 when Brennan returned prematurely from maternity leave. 

In her direct evidence at hearing, Brennan said 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.

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

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

In his direct evidence the board of management chairman said that he had been conducting interviews since 1973 and that he treated all candidates equally.

The board of management said that it observed in full the Department of Education procedures for the appointment of principal teachers.

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Gordon Deegan

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