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Employment Law Case Update: Unfair Dismissal and Disability Discrimination

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Interviews can sometimes be a difficult task. Depending on how many applications you receive and how many positions you have available, you could be interviewing multiple candidates over a number of weeks and it important that detailed notes are kept for you to review when deciding who, if anyone, to hire.

The case of Levy v McHale Legal Ltd illustrates how inaccurate note taking during an interview can lead to a claim, and why you must be careful when stating the reason for an unsuccessful application.

Mr Levy, a qualified commercial property solicitor, who had been practising since 1985, was the only candidate to apply for a position at McHale Legal in Manchester.

Mr Levy was 57 at the time of his interview. The position he’d applied for stated that the applicant needed to have at least five years of post-qualification experience, which Mr Levy had. In the interview he was asked what his salary expectations were. He was based in London at the time and was on a salary of around £60,000. Mr Levy suggested that he understood the salary would be lower and that he was open to negotiation on this point. He put forward a salary expectation of around £50,000 and stated that he would be willing to work on a self-employed consultancy basis.

Ms Udalova-Surkova, who interviewed Mr Levy, spoke with other department heads after the interview to discuss the role. Her notes stated that Mr Levy’s salary expectations were in excess of £50,000 which did not reflect what had been said at the interview. Her notes also suggested that he was “expensive” and “doesn’t cover all our needs”.

A few days after his interview, Mr Levy was told that he had not been successful in applying for the role and that the company had decided to employ an individual with less experience which they could “mould” to their specific requirements.

Mr Levy then brought a claim to the Employment Tribunal (ET) for age discrimination against the firm of solicitors. The firm stated that the decision to not recruit Mr Levy was due to the fact that a senior solicitor would require a higher salary and stated that the advert was only to test the market with regard to this level of experience.

The ET upheld Mr Levy’s claim and stated that the notes from the interview gave no indication that the application had been looked at. The judge held that the evidence illustrated the company had made the decision based on a “knee-jerk” reaction to salary expectations. The judge also noted that the firm had a lack of formal training for diversity and equality issues.

The firm had also threatened to report Mr Levy to the Solicitors Regulation Authority. The judge noted that this illustrated that it had no appreciation for the fact that it may have discriminated against Mr Levy.

This case highlights the importance of an employer providing adequate equality and diversity training to its members of staff. It also illustrates that when recruiting, employers should pay particular attention to candidates on the whole rather than one specific factor. If the decision on whether to hire the candidate comes down to salary, then employers should at least see if they would be open to negotiations in order to reach an agreement.

If you have any questions regarding this article, or you would like guidance on your recruitment processes, you can call our Employment team today on 023 8071 7717 or email employment@warnergoodman.co.uk.

This was previously part of our weekly Employment Law Newsletter. If you would like to subscribe, please email us at events@warnergoodman.co.uk or just fill in our subscription form.

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.