Woman awarded compensation after Minister asked discriminatory questions

The woman took a case to the Workplace Relations Commission

Woman awarded compensation after Minister asked discriminatory questions

File photo of Minister of State John Halligan | Image: Leon Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Updated: 18.35

Compensation of €7,500 has been awarded to a woman who was asked by Minister of State John Halligan about her family circumstances in a job interview.

Minister Halligan asked the female public servant if she was married and had children.

The woman took a case to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), which found that she had been discriminated against under the Employment Equality Act.

The executive officer had been employed by the civil service since 1993.

She had interviewed unsuccessfully in May 2016 for one of two posts of private secretary to two Ministers of State in the same Government department, the WRC heard.

Mr Halligan asked her if she was married and if she had any children.

The woman answered the questions, confirming she was married and was the mother of two children, and she indicated their ages.

The Public Service Executive Union (PSEU) represented the woman in the case.

In a statement, the union says: "It beggars belief that 40 years after the enactment of the first Employment Equality Act 1977 anybody, let alone a Government minister, would think that it is acceptable to ask questions based on an out-moded view of the role of a mother.

"That such questions were asked by somebody who is a minister in the department that was, at the time, the department charged with the promotion and implementation of equality legislation is, frankly, shameful.

"We hope that that the publicity around this case makes it clear that it is never ok to ask discriminatory questions or to make discriminatory assumptions regarding candidates simply because of their family circumstances."

it adds: "It took courage for the member concerned to take on her department and a Government minister.

"Both her employer and the minister let her, and themselves, down badly, breached the very laws that they are required to uphold and treated a member of staff in a disgraceful fashion."

The woman in question wishes to remain anonymous.

"The minister broke the law"

The Labour Party spokesperson on justice, Seán Sherlock, has called on Minister Halligan to consider his position following the findings of the WRC.

Deputy Sherlock said: "Minister Halligan's department has now been ordered to pay €7,500 in compensation.

"At a minimum, the minister should pay this himself rather than have his department do it. The same minister serves in the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation which is responsible for the WRC.

"Frankly for a politician who considers himself of the left and a champion of equality it is an outrageous abuse of position that he would ask anyone, never mind a senior civil servant, such a question.

"For a Minister of State to discriminate on the basis of civil status, family, and gender is unacceptable.

"This is a very serious matter. The minister broke the law. The minister discriminated against a civil servant.

"He should do the decent thing now and consider his position."