Job applicants with spurious intentions: what should employers do?

Gerald Freedman would ask for chilled Irn-Bru to be made available during interviewEllie Meddle/REX/Shutterstock
Gerald Freedman would ask for chilled Irn-Bru to be made available during interview
Ellie Meddle/REX/Shutterstock

Police in Scotland have been informed about a serial job applicant who threatens to launch legal action if he is not invited to interview.

Gerald Freedman, a self-proclaimed business consultant, has applied for roles with hundreds of charities, colleges and universities in the past 10 years, claiming he is so severely disabled that he requires numerous “reasonable adjustments” and special measures in order to attend interview.

His outlandish requests have included business class air fares, two-night hotel stays if he has to travel more than 60 miles, cans of Irn-Bru and sandwiches during an interview, and an attempt to claim £150 for “specialist shoes”.

Freedman says he suffers from numerous debilitating conditions, including chronic back pain, anxiety, lung illness and obsessive compulsive disorder. He has also claimed that he is so severely disabled that knocking into a chair could cause permanent paralysis, and that he is unable to be interviewed via Skype as it “causes him deep anxiety and distress”.

According to the organisations that have dealt with him, his approach is to send a lengthy letter to potential employers spelling out their obligations under the Equality Act 2010. In correspondence seen by The Times newspaper, he has threatened to launch legal action or “go public” if organisations do not offer him an interview and accommodate his requests.

Many potential employers have been forced to seek legal advice as to how to respond to Freedman’s requests, while some have capitulated for fear of attracting negative publicity.

Although Freedman, who has stood in local elections as a Conservative candidate and held a board position on a housing association, had initially targeted Scottish charities, the investigation has now been extended across the UK.

Detectives at Police Scotland have urged employers who have had contact with Freedman to contact their local police on the non-emergency number 101 to report any harassment.

 

Other job applicants with spurious intentions

While “malicious applicants” like this thankfully don’t turn up every day, there have been a number of cases of legal threats and tribunals where job candidates’ intentions have been equally questionable.

Here, we review four legal cases brought by job applicants claiming that prospective employers have discriminated against them.

Applicants only seeking compensation not protected by discrimination law

In the case of Kratzer v Allgemeine Versicherung AG, Mr Krazter applied for a trainee position in a law firm, claiming he fulfilled all the job criteria and possessed extensive managerial and legal experience.

When he received a rejection for the role, he wrote to the company seeking compensation for age discrimination. He was then invited to interview as the company claimed the rejection had been computer-generated, but refused to attend unless the firm satisfied his compensation claim.

Mr Kratzer later discovered that the four trainee posts available had been offered to women, and added a further claim of sex discrimination.

After his case was dismissed, he appealed to the German Federal Labour Court, which asked the European Court of Justice to rule on his unusual request.

The ECJ ruled that a person who applies for a job with the sole purpose of making an application for compensation for discrimination is not covered by the Equal Treatment Framework Directive – in other words, discrimination law does not protect job applicants who are only seeking compensation, rather than being seriously interested in the role.

African job applicant changes name

In 2012, a job applicant engineered a tribunal claim by submitting two applications for a role with Virgin Atlantic – the first using his real African name (Kpakio) and stating his ethnicity as black African; the second using a fake British sounding name and describing himself as white British.

The first application was rejected, but his second application was put forward to the next recruitment stage. Although he was ultimately unsuccessful through either identity, Mr Kpakio claimed direct race discrimination on the basis Virgin Atlantic had rejected his first application due to his Liberian ethnic origin.

The tribunal found that there were, in fact, substantial differences between the two applications, to the extent that the lack of relevant experience on his first application would have been more likely to influence the decision to reject rather than his name.

The tribunal dismissed his claim, and explained to Mr Kpakio that, even if his claim succeeded, it was not in its power to order Virgin Atlantic to make him a job offer and provide an apology, which were the remedies that he sought.

Serial litigant banned after 30 cases in four years

One “serial litigant” became so extreme in his complaints against his current and prospective employers that he was banned from making further tribunal claims.

Between 2007 and 2011, Mr Iteshi brought 30 employment tribunal claims, as well as numerous applications within claims, all of which were struck out as vexatious or having no reasonable prospect of success.

Four of the claims were against his own employers, but the remainder were brought against recruitment companies in respect of positions for which he did not have the necessary qualifications.

All claims involved direct and indirect race discrimination, most involved sex discrimination and many involved victimisation.

Usually, if a recruitment agency refused to put someone forward for a role on the basis they had submitted a vexatious tribunal claim in the past, it would amount to a detriment under s.27 of the Equality Act 2010.

However, in the case of Mr Iteshi, the Employment Appeal Tribunal thought there was a realistic possibility that he might bring further vexatious claims in the future, and chose to grant a restriction of proceedings order preventing him from making further claims.

 

Teacher makes mass claim for age discrimination

A teacher who applied for positions at eight schools and then filed claims for age discrimination against each of them had all of his claims struck out by the employment tribunal, on the basis they had “no reasonable prospect of success”.

Mr Tomlinson had worked as a teacher in higher education and as a secondary school supply teacher, and decided to apply for permanent positions with eight schools in the Birmingham area.

Department of Education guidance stipulated he had to include his date of birth in his application form so he could be correctly identified for background checks. It added that incomplete application forms would not be accepted, and attaching CVs was discouraged.

Mr Tomlinson failed to complete large sections of the application form, including his date of birth, and instead attached his CV with a covering letter explaining how “language teaching in the UK is in crisis”.

He failed to be shortlisted for any of the positions, and subsequently complained. He submitted Freedom of Information requests about the ages of successful applicants to the schools in recent years, and brought claims of age discrimination against the eight schools.

The Birmingham employment tribunal looked at the eight claims together, and decided they should be struck out. It noted that this was an unusual move as discrimination cases can be sensitive, but recognised that a claimant should have “a realistic as opposed to a merely fanciful prospect of success” to be allowed to proceed.

It added that Mr Tomlinson’s belief that he was discriminated against was genuine, but unsupported by any evidence.