€54k to teacher upheld in 'what about homos?' case
A Catholic primary school failed in its bid to have a €54,000 compensation award overturned - although the Labour Court found that, on the balance of probability, a question about "the homos" was not asked during interview.
Earlier this year, the Equality Tribunal made the award on the grounds that the female vice-principal was discriminated against on age, religion and sexual orientation for a principal's post.
It also found that a nun on the interview board asked her: "What about the homos?"
The school appealed the decision to the Labour Court, but the court dismissed the appeal on two of the three grounds and has reaffirmed the compensation award of €54,000.
However, the Labour Court found that, on the balance of probability, the nun on the interview panel did not make the 'homos' comment during the interview.
Earlier this year, the equality officer in the case found that the nun, 'Sr C', had asked the question "what about the homos?" in the context of the Forum of Pluralism and Patronage established to reduce dominance of the Catholic Church on primary education.
The equality officer made the finding in spite of denials that the question was asked.
The teacher said she was "floored" when asked the question and did not know how she was supposed to answer it.
The teacher said she found the questions regarding her views on the INTO submission on the Forum and on homosexuality "totally unacceptable, discriminatory and believed that they placed her at a great disadvantage".
However, in its findings, the Labour Court recorded that Sr C strenuously denied having uttered those words and her evidence was corroborated by the other members of the selection panel who gave evidence.
The court found that the teacher's evidence "was uncorroborated".
The court found that, even if such a question was asked at the interview, it could not imply discrimination against the complainant on grounds of her sexual orientation, as she is not homosexual.
The court, however, did find that the panel asked the teacher her views on the INTO submission to the forum.
In conclusion, the Labour Court found "no cogent explanation was provided as to why the successful candidate was preferred over the complainant who, in overall terms, was clearly better qualified - both in terms of her experience and her academic achievement".
The teacher remains a member of staff at the school.