A former applicant for a position at Virgin Atlantic has failed in his race discrimination claim in the Employment Tribunal.

A Liberian-born man has failed in his claim for race discrimination against Virgin Atlantic, reports the BBC. Max Kpakio, a resident of Swansea, made a number of applications to Virgin Atlantic for the position with the airline’s call centre in 2011. However, although his application under his real name failed, an application by him under the fake name “Craig Owen” succeeded. He believed that he had been racially discriminated against by Virgin Atlantic over his unusual name and made a claim for race discrimination in the Employment Tribunal, claiming loss of earnings and injury to feelings up to £55,000.

The case came before the Employment Tribunal in Cardiff earlier this year. The Employment Tribunal heard evidence from both Mr Kpakio and Virgin Atlantic staff regarding the application process, including the fact that the two forms were different in their content as well as being submitted by two apparently different people. The application from “Mr Owen” claimed over five years’ experience working in Tesco and Asda supermarkets, whereas the application from Mr Kpakio did not contain such information. The Tribunal therefore came to the conclusion that Mr Kpakio had not been offered the job for a reason other than race discrimination.

In order to succeed with a claim for direct race discrimination a Claimant must succeed in showing that:

  1. That they possess a particular protected racial characteristic (for example, their nationality, national origin, skin colour etc.)
  2. That they have been subjected to some form of detriment
  3. That other comparable employees (or applicants etc.) who do not possess their characteristic have not been treated in the same manner; and
  4. That the reason for the differential (and detrimental) treatment is their protected racial characteristic

Mr Kpakio succeeded in showing that he has a protected racial characteristic – from media reports this is his Liberian national origin and alleged that the detriment that he had been subjected to was that he was not offered the call centre job. He further claimed that comparable applicants who did not possess such an “unusual” name as his (which – it is assumed – is characteristically Liberian) were offered the job – hence his concern over the success of the application of Craig Owen, as compared to his own application. However, where Mr Kpakio “fell down” was his inability to show causation – that he had not been offered the job because of his protected characteristic rather than factual differences in the applications made. He was therefore unable to succeed with his race discrimination claim before the Employment Tribunal.

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The Direct 2 Lawyers Employment Team post daily on interesting employment law cases, Employment Tribunal judgments and Employment Appeal Tribunal judgments. All of the Employment Team posts are written by qualified specialist employment lawyers

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