Interview Questions Were Discriminatory

Background to Complaint

The claimant claimed that he was discriminated against by on the ground of age, contrary to the provisions of the Employment Equality Acts 1998 and 2007, when he was asked his date of birth at an interview.


Employees Case

The claimant submitted to the Equality Authority that he was interviewed for the position of Sales Representative covering the DACH region (Germany, Austria and Switzerland) at the respondent company’s premises on 9th August 2004.

There were two interviewers, one male, one female.

The complainant said the first part of the interview went well, consisting of the interviewers going through his CV and questioning him about his professional background.

He said that, spoken German being a requirement of the job, the male interviewer then left the room and he and the female interviewer resumed the conversation in German.

He said the female interviewer remarked that his date of birth was not on his CV and she asked him upfront what his age was. He said this made him uncomfortable, because he felt it to be irrelevant. He said that he answered reluctantly because he wanted to keep the positive feeling of the interview going.
He said that, needless to say, he did not get the job.
He contacted the company’s HR department for an explanation and subsequently had correspondence from the HR Director which basically gave him the company’s official policy on age discrimination, but did not do enough either to convince him that the HR department had carried out a thorough investigation of his complaint or provide the criteria used in deciding he was unsuitable.

Company’s Case

The company said that it advertised a vacancy for the post of Account Executive in 2004 and the claimant was unsuccessful because his experience was not sufficient.

However, he impressed the interviewer who recommended him for a Sales Representative position.

He was interviewed on 9 August for the position of Sales Representative.

The company said the role of the male interviewer, as the manager to whom the Sales Representative position reported, was to establish the complainant’s background and skills so as to ascertain his fitness for the position.

The female interviewers role was to ascertain the complainant’s proficiency in the German language, which was a requirement for the position.
The company said that after the first stage of the interview, during which the complainant’s CV was reviewed, the male interviewer left the room and the female interviewer proceeded with the language-testing phase of the interview.
It said she found it difficult to get a conversation going with the complainant and therefore asked very basic questions.
The respondent said she based some of these questions on the complainant’s CV and it was in this context that she mentioned that the complainant’s age was not on his CV.
The company said that the successful candidate for the position was 22 years of age. She had specific experience in the relevant area, having done similar work for Oracle. She was also a native German speaker.
They said it was for these reasons that the successful candidate was appointed over the claimant, and that age was not a factor in the decision-making process.
The company said the claimant was subsequently informed by telephone that he had not been successful due to the fact that a stronger candidate had been identified.
It said correspondence passed between the parties but failed to resolve the matter to his satisfaction.

Equality Officer Finds Discrimination Did Occur

The Equality Officer found that other candidates had better qualifications and the claimant would not have been successful in any case if he had not been asked about his age. The successful candidate was a well qualified native German speaker.
The Equality Officer accepted the company’s explanation that the claimant’s age was referred to solely in the context of trying to engage him in German-language conversation, however, the company should consider drawing up some standard format questions to ensure discriminatory remarks or questions do not inadvertently arise.
The Equality Officer awarded compensation of €1,000 in compensation for the effects of the discriminatory questioning.

Case: Paul MacGabhainn v, Equality Tribunal, 2007

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