Case Review: Racial Discrimination case against Virgin Atlantic dismissed
Liberian-born Max Kpakio claimed that he had been discriminated against on grounds of race by Virgin Atlantic during the recruitment process for a customer services job in their Swansea call centre.
Mr Kpakio, a British citizen with a degree in international relations, claimed that having been rejected for the post, he reapplied with a typically British name. For his second application he used the name “Craig Owen”, as opposed to his given name, and was subsequently invited to interview. However, he still failed to receive a job offer from Virgin Atlantic.
Mr Kpakio perceived that he was less likely to receive an interview using his African name, and brought a claim for loss of earnings and injury to feelings which amounted to £55,000.
Virgin Atlantic insisted it was an equal opportunities employer, and told the employment tribunal that there were differences between the two CVs in addition to the change of name. The application in the name of “Craig Owen” had 5 years’ customer services experience with Asda and Tesco, which were not apparent on the original application.
The employment tribunal found that race had played no part in the recruitment process and that the two applications were different.
The case raises an interesting question of discrimination during the recruitment process, a lot of which is carried out behind closed doors by external recruitment agencies. Can a candidate really be assured that their application will be treated as equally as others if they have an ethnic name or have a date of birth which puts them perilously close to retirement age?