We hope that when someone is being considered for a job, that the best, most qualified candidate will be chosen. For a long time, however, woman have been overlooked and systemically discriminated against.
So when a woman in Austria was appointed to spearhead a new government department, most people were thrilled that she earned the position. However, 1 of the other candidates didn’t feel the same way, and decided to sue…
Restructuring The Department
In 2011, Doris Bures, then the Austrian Minister of Transport, Innovation and Technology was told that they needed to consolidate 2 departments under her control. The decision was meant to create 1 centralized department that would deal solely with transportation.
A New Manager
Before that could happen, Doris would have to restructure the departments. That year, Doris, who is currently the Second President of Austria’s Parliament, announced that in order to combine the 2 separate departments into 1, she would have to pick a new person that would lead the recently unified departments…
After Doris announced her decision and explained that the restructuring meant that a position had opened for a new manager, applications came flooding in for the role as manager of the department. Ultimately, 3 of the applicants became the final candidates.
The Final Candidates
The 3 hopefuls that were now being considered for the management position included 2 men and 1 woman. 1 of the male applicants was Peter Franzmayr, who was the head of 1 of the 2 departments being merged, and the female applicant was Ursula Zechner…
Strengths And Weaknesses
At the time, Zechner was the head of the rail regulator Schienen-Control. Each applicant was working different roles when they applied, and therefore, had different work experiences that brought different strengths to their applications.
An Impossible Choice
Each of the 3 final candidates were interviewed and their contributions in their current positions were carefully scrutinized. As if the choice wasn’t already difficult, all of the 3 applicants were determined to be highly qualified for the new position…
Before Doris and her team could reach a final decision, they had an expert committee come in to offer an evaluation on all the candidates. After performing their own interviews and looking into the applicants’ skill sets and accomplishments, they offered their suggestions to Doris and her team.
While it was a close call, the expert evaluation committee determined that Franzmayr was the best candidate for the job. While Ursula Zechner was extremely accomplished and qualified for the role, the experts determined that Franzmayr was ever so slightly a better candidate…
A Quarter Of A Percent
According to the committee, Franzmayr and his application was rated 0.25 percent higher that Zechner’s. Despite the committee’s recommendation for Franzmayr to be the manager for the new department, Doris decided to go in a different direction.
The Minister Makes A Choice
Doris and her team decided that the difference between Franzmayr and Zechner was so marginal and ultimately chose the only female candidate. Soon after the team finally reached a decision about the coveted role, they made a decision, and told the candidates and the new department…
The New Manager
Doris announced that Zechner had been chosen to become the manager and she happily accepted the job. Most people congratulated Zechner on the achievement that she clearly earned, but one person started to doubt if she really had earned it.
A Disgruntled Employee
Franzmayr couldn’t understand how he didn’t get the job and demanded to know why Zechner had been chosen over him. He couldn’t accept that Zechner was more qualified for the position than he was since he was already the manager for 1 of the 2 departments in the process of being merged…
The Truth Is Revealed
So when Franzmayr found out that the expert evaluation committee had actually determined that he was the better candidate and that he had been given a 0.25 percent advantage over Zechner, he claimed he had been discriminated against because of his gender.
Franzmayr couldn’t let the decision go. In his eyes, the fact that he lost out on the job to a woman was blatantly discriminating against him because he was a man, and he decided to leave the ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology. However, before Franzmayr left, there was 1 last thing he wanted to do…
Before leaving his job at the ministry, Franzmayr announced that he was going to sue his former employers for gender discrimination. According to Franzmayr’s lawsuit, he should have been appointed as manager of the new department and claimed he should be compensated for being discriminated against.
Presenting His Case
Franzmayr presented his case to the Federal Administrative Court. During the trial, he explained that he had applied for the new manager position in the new department within the ministry and that a committee ruled he was the best candidate for the role…
The Ministry’s Defense
Logically, he should have been given the job, but because he was a man, the top female candidate was chosen instead. The ministry argued that while Franzmayr was a slightly better choice, all 3 of the final candidates were extremely qualified and would all have been excellent choices for the job.
Following The Law
Doris told the court that the decision ultimately came down to the fact that women were largely underrepresented in manager roles within the ministry and that she was following the laws set up to help establish equality in the workplace. “The occupation of the section management has been carried out according to the procedure prescribed by law…”
After hearing both sides of the story, the Federal Administrative Court announced their decision in February 2018. While Doris was just trying to follow hiring procedures that had been legally established, there had been gender discrimination. The court explained that they found there was “a clear tendency to treat [Zechner] more favorably than the other candidates since the beginning”.
Standing By The Decision
After announcing their decision, the court also announced that the State must pay Franzmayr €317,368, which is almost $390,000, for the amount he would have earned in the role in addition to damages and interest. Despite the ruling, Doris stood by her decision. “I hope the current decision doesn’t call into the question the principle of encouraging the promotion of women,” Doris said.