Hiring Row | HR candidate told by employer they want to hire 'fewer white men' loses tribunal

HR candidate told by employer they want to hire 'fewer white men' loses tribunal

A candidate for an HR Manager role at a financial services company has lost a sex and race discrimination case after his potential employer told him the company wants to hire “fewer white men”.

Chris Palmer went for an interview for the role of HR Manager at AIMS Markets. He was interviewed by the company’s managing director, Michael Jones, but was unsuccessful in going into the £80,000 salaried job role, as interviewers were concerned about his “arrogance”.

Palmer told a tribunal that during the interview he was told the company wanted to hire “fewer white men”, and because the position ended up going to a woman, he believed he didn’t get the job based on his ethnicity and gender.

However, the panel ruled that it was not the company’s “intention to discriminate” when the managing director had mentioned ambitions to improve diversity. As a result, Palmer’s claims were dismissed, and he lost the case.

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The case

Palmer was invited to a pre-interview call in July 2021 whilst he was on holiday. The tribunal heard that this call happened over the phone and several of his friends could hear what was being said.

The court heard that Jones mentioned diversity objectives and stated the ethnicity and sex of some existing employees and had mentioned in this call a desire to hire “fewer white men”.

The first interview, in August 2021, the interviewers expressed some doubts about Palmer, as they felt he “talked a lot” and so they wondered if he would be a “good listener” within his HR role. They were also concerned about his wage expectations, as he suggested a salary of £100,000.

The judge heard that at this point there were two other candidates – both women – who also did not proceed to the next stage of the hiring process.

In November 2021, when Palmer was told of his unsuccessful progression, he alleged sex discrimination against the financial company, and said his interviewers had been “going through the motions”.

The judge at the tribunal explained that even though the company expressed desires to be “less dominated by men”, it didn’t necessarily have the “intention to achieve that objective by discriminating in recruitment against white men and in favour of women of minority ethnic candidates”.

"We do not find it concerning or odd that an employer should discuss with a candidate for a post as head of HR the issue of diversity in its workforce.”

Positive action

There have been several tribunal cases whereby employers are accused of sex, race and gender discrimination for openly prioritising hiring people from marginalised backgrounds.

Famously, an enquiry decided that the RAF unlawfully discriminated against white men during a recruitment process to boost its diversity.

This case, and other like it, highlights the importance for employers to recognise the difference between positive discrimination and positive action. The former being unlawful and grounded in giving preferential treatment to people because of their protected characteristics, and the latter being a legal way for companies to improve diversity through acknowledging certain groups are under represented.

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