Serial litigants have been dealt a blow after a tribunal ruled job applications must be genuine before a claimant can suffer statutory discrimination.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) ruled in the case of Keane v Investigo and others that Margaret Keane had not suffered age discrimination after her applications for positions – which she was over-qualified for – were rejected because she had not genuinely wanted the jobs.
Keane, who is 51 years old, was found to have sought out jobs being advertised for ‘newly qualified’ accountants, despite having several years’ experience.
The claimant said she filed the claims to make a stand against age discrimination, but this was rejected after it was found she had made settlements on up to half of the claims.
Keane applied for at least 20 positions which were too junior for her, and made £100,000 from settling claims with up to 12 businesses.
The EAT ruled since Keane was not interested in taking the job if offered, she had not suffered discrimination.
Cathy Hoar, an employment associate at law firm Adams and Remers, said the case would act as “a deterrent” for vexatious claimants.
She told Personnel Today: “It will give employers a bit more strength in responding to and dealing with claims where there is a suggestion that someone is unlikely to want the job.
“It makes it clear that for someone to bring a claim and succeed, they have to be a genuine applicant.”
But Hoar warned employers that in the current economic climate, jobseekers would be making genuine applications for positions they were over-qualified for, and these applications should not immediately be seen as vexatious.
Keane could not adequately explain why she wanted a job aimed at someone with little or no experience, and had sent a questionnaire under the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 asking for details of the alleged discriminatory treatment before she knew whether she had been rejected.
She also submitted identical CVs and cover letters for all the applications, and declined an offer from one agency to explore more suitable roles.
John Read, an employment law editor at XpertHR, said the EAT’s decision was “common sense”.
He said: “This decision is a reminder to employers that, when faced with a litigant like Keane, they can succeed if they can convince a tribunal – on balance of probabilities – that the job application isn’t genuine.”