£10,734 payout for man snubbed over community sector job because of his political views
A community worker in Londonderry has been awarded more than £10,000 in compensation from an employment tribunal after he failed to get a job due to his politics.
Gary McClean had applied for the post of community development officer with the Waterside Neighbourhood Partnership Ltd (WNP), but despite being the best candidate he was not appointed to the role.
Mr McClean complained to the Fair Employment Tribunal, and following a hearing was awarded £10,734 in compensation.
The tribunal held that, in failing to appoint him to the post of community development officer, the WNP in Derry unlawfully discriminated against him on the grounds of his political opinion.
Mr McClean did not reapply for the post after the WNP re-ran the competition, and it was given to another person.
The Equality Commission supported him in taking the case.
Mr McClean said: "I have always believed that the only reason I was considered unacceptable for this post was because my political stance did not fit in with the approach of Sinn Fein and the DUP towards community services and funding.
"The tribunal decision has clearly shown that the Waterside Community Partnership cannot give any credible explanation for refusing to appoint me after I had come top in the interview and met the threshold they had set as the standard.
"I didn't take this case for financial reward.
"But I hope that, by successfully challenging this process, I can shine a light on the need for greater transparency and accountability in appointments within the community sector."
The tribunal decision states: "This is a highly unusual case where the highest marked candidate in an interview process, who had exceeded the threshold marking, and who had been identified as the person to be appointed, was not appointed."
A score sheet considered by the tribunal recorded the individual marks of each panel member, and this showed that Mr McClean was scored highest by all three.
In a line on the sheet that commenced 'Person appointed', the claimant's name was written, and this was followed by the three signatures of the panel members.
The tribunal found that two members of the interview panel believed he should not be appointed to the post. However, the chairman of the interview panel believed he should be appointed.
Tribunal evidence stated: "It seems highly unlikely there can be any innocent explanation of the extraordinary result of this interview process.
"If there had been such an innocent explanation, it would have been put forward from the start and maintained consistently thereafter."
The tribunal found that Mr McClean believes the control and funding of community activities should be a matter for the communities themselves and not for main political parties, and that this was a political opinion covered by the Fair Employment and Treatment Order 1998.
Although it had been argued that Mr McClean's political opinion was not known to WNP, and to two members of the interview panel, the tribunal concluded that they "knew of the claimant's political opinion as defined above at the time of the decision not to appoint him as the highest marked candidate".
Dr Michael Wardlow, chief commissioner of the Equality Commission, said the case was a reminder that fair employment legislation and good equality practices can protect people against discrimination on grounds of their political opinion.
The WNP said: "Whilst we accept the decision, we are disappointed with it. WNP believe that we did not discriminate based on the grounds of political opinion.
"But we have since reviewed our recruitment policies and procedures internally."