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Irish Politician Faces Backlash After Asking Female Interviewee Inappropriate Personal Questions

During a job interview, Irish Minister of State John Halligan asked a woman if she was married or had children. The woman was applying for a job as Halligan's private secretary when he asked the inappropriate questions.

The Irish government will compensate the woman €7,500, which Halligan said he will reimburse. 

Halligan had this to say about the incident:

I was simply trying to put the interviewee at ease. I wanted to assure her that I am as flexible as possible with members of my team with any external or non-work commitments they may have. All of my staff start at 10am because they need to get their kids to school and can finish early if they need to. I’m upset in the sense I genuinely didn’t think I was doing anything wrong. Sometimes I am wrong but I operate a family friendly environment.

During a Workplace Relations Commission hearing, Adjudication Officer Penelope McGrath said: 

It was ill-advised of the Minister of State to have so pointedly obtained information that had nothing to do with this candidate’s suitability for a position, and a position for which she had determined she was eligible to compete. [The woman] was put in a difficult situation in a job interview by reason of probing questions which went to the heart of her married and family life which historically could not be considered gender neutral questions.

McGrath went on to add that the questions, “indirectly associated her with the task of primary homemaker and therefore not as available as other less encumbered candidates might be.”

After the hearing Halligan reiterated that he runs a family-friendly work environment:

I did this as I wanted her to feel that I would be flexible in terms of any family business that she may have to attend to. Too many workplaces have less than family-friendly arrangements and I always ensure that my workplace is as family-friendly as possible. This was the first time I was conducting an interview of this sort and I did not realize that it was unacceptable to ask such a question. But the question was coming from a good place. It was in no way meant to be discriminatory in any shape. During the course of the Workplace Relations Commission hearing, four members of my constituency team submitted testimonials backing up my ethos as an employer. As a true advocate for equality for all, I regret that this incident occurred. The reasons behind my actions that day was to try and be as accommodating as possible to people who have children.

Some people had issues with the settlement:

There were mixed feelings over Halligan's intention in asking the questions:

H/T: Irish News, Twitter