A primary school teacher has been awarded €54,000 by the Equality Tribunal after being asked in an interview what she thought about teachers who are “homos”.
The teacher – who is heterosexual – was interviewing for a job as principal at a Catholic national school when she was asked this “unlawful question”.
Following this, she was passed over for the job for a younger and less experienced teacher to fill the role in the Munster-based school.
The teacher said she was “floored” by the question regarding other teachers’ sexualities and became flustered as she was interviewed by two men and a nun.
The nun, known only as Sr. B, was said to have asked the question: “What about the homos?”
The complainant replied that she knew there were gay and lesbian teachers already teaching in schools and became upset at the line of questioning.
At tribunal hearings, the nun denied asking any such question or making any statement regarding sexual orientation. The school said the complainant’s sexual orientation was unknown to them.
However Equality Officer Stephen Bonnlander felt that the nun did ask these questions and questioned her credibility, “Sr B’s insistence on her lack of memory stood in marked contrast to her precise recollection on her interview questions relating to educational philosophy”.
He said he believed that the school did not know the complainant’s sexuality and hoped to determine it through these questions, without asking it directly.
“Had the complainant been a lesbian woman, this question would have upset her potentially even more than happened to the complainant, and even more seriously limited such a complainant’s potential for success at interview.”
The school told the tribunal that the complainant did not perform well enough in her interview to earn the job.
Two of the interviewers told the tribunal that they had since gotten rid of their interview notes, to which the equality officer stated that it was a problem for the school’s defense.
“These irregularities do not favour the respondent as it is trite law by now that such actions constitute poor practice in hiring and promotion processes.”
The tribunal found she was discriminated against on grounds of age, religion and sexual orientation. The sum of of €54,000 was made in compensation for distress suffered.