By Daniel Hunter

Today (Monday), Virgin Atlantic will begin its defence against a claim for racial discrimination by Max Kpakio, a refugee from Liberia. Mr Kpakio, who now lives in Swansea and has a BA in International Relations from Swansea University, claims that he was turned down for an interview for a job in Virgin Atlantic's call centre.

However, he claims that he was repeatedly invited for interview when he applied under the made-up name of Craig Owen, even though his CV had less experience.

“Instead of Mr. Kpakio proving he was discriminated against, the burden of proof in this case falls to Virgin Atlantic who needs to demonstrate to the courts that it did not discriminate against Mr Kpakio on the basis of his name," Donna Purchase, Partner at QualitySolicitors Redkite commented.

"It will be crucial for Virgin Atlantic to show that there was a non-discriminatory reason for the difference in treatment between the two CVs and to outline the company’s equal opportunities policies in relation to recruitment. If Virgin Atlantic is unsuccessful in defending the claim, the consequences could be significant. Mr Kpakio could justifiably be awarded compensation for his financial losses as well as for injury to feelings.

“Although this is an individual example, race discrimination at work appears, worryingly, to be on the rise, as identified in a recent study by the Department of Work and Pensions*. In an experiment that saw almost 3000 applications sent out for 987 vacancies, those candidates with a ‘white name’ had a 10.7% chance of receiving a positive response, compared to 6.2% of those with an ‘ethnic minority name’.

“Both Mr Kpaiko’s case, and the research outlined above, demonstrates that there is more to be done to tackle discrimination in the workplace and the recruitment process. With the legal protection afforded by The Equality Act 2010, candidates who feel they may have been discriminated against should feel confident in challenging their employers. Likewise, businesses should take the straightforward steps to ensure they can demonstrate if asked, how they apply non-discriminatory criteria to assess candidates whilst recruiting.”

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