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Why apply for a job you don’t want?

11 March 2010

A recent case may prompt employers to be on the alert for the so-called ‘serial litigant’, reports a Willans Partner.

In the employment context, these are often people protected by some form of discrimination legislation, for example they are from an ethnic minority or have a disability. Typically, they apply for a job by submitting two CVs or forms. The first application will contain their genuine details. In the second version, any indication that the applicant falls into a protected group will have been removed, eg by changing a name that points to the person’s real ethnic origin to a more ‘British’ sounding name.

If the ‘edited’ application succeeds in obtaining an interview but the ‘genuine’ version does not, the applicant will briskly submit a tribunal claim for discrimination. This often pays off as many employers will simply settle the claim. Clearly employers must not discriminate on any grounds that are protected by law but these individuals are abusing laws which were designed to protect them and others.

In the case of Keane v Investigo and others, such an attempt was foiled. Margaret Keane is a 50-year old, experienced accountant. She applied for many jobs that were plainly aimed at recently qualified accountants and for which she was overqualified. In 21 cases where she failed to get an interview, she brought claims for age discrimination.

With a good dose of common sense, the tribunal found that her applications were not genuine and that she had no real interest in the jobs. She would not therefore have suffered a ‘detriment or disadvantage’ even had there been age discrimination, so her claims must fail. They failed anyway because the tribunal found there had been no age discrimination.

Ms Keane argued that she had brought the claims to make a point about age discrimination. The tribunals accepted that, while this may have been a contributing factor, she had also made the claims to seek compensation. Her claims were found to be ‘misconceived and an abuse of process’ and costs were awarded against her.

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