Race Discrimination

Employment Law – Race Discrimination – Job Application – Inadequate References


The case of Jatto v Godloves Solicitors and Others [2008] concerned discrimination against a racial group. The employee in this case was of African origin and was employed as a solicitor by Thompsons, a wills and conveyancing law firm.

The employee handed in his resignation and later applied for a job as an assistant solicitor in the commercial conveyancing department of Godloves Solicitors (‘the employer’). He was given an interview and subsequently offered employment. However, the offer of employment was conditional upon the employee obtaining satisfactory references.

The employee stated that he would obtain references from Thompsons, as well as from a friend who worked as a solicitor at the HM Revenue and Customs.

Unfortunately, Thompsons refused to provide a reference, and subsequently, six attempts were made by the employer to obtain a reference. This meant that the employer began to draw an inference that there might have been an issue about the termination of the employee's relationship with Thompsons.

Accordingly, the employer attempted to communicate directly with Thompsons to see if any light could be shed on the reason for the refusal to give a reference. Thomspons stated that they would not provide a reference because it was going to be unfavourable.  As a result of this information, the employer immediately withdrew the offer of employment.

The employee issued proceedings against Thompsons, the employer and four other solicitors. He also issued a questionnaire in accordance with the Race Relations Act 1976.

The employer entered a response to the proceedings, but not to the questionnaire.

The employee argued that the failures by Thompsons and the employer constituted indirect race discrimination.

At a pre-hearing review, the chairman held that there was nothing which suggested that the reason for the revocation of the offer of employment had anything to do with race. He therefore struck out all the claims made by the employee.

The employee appealed against the decision in respect of the employer only. He submitted that the chairman had been erroneous in striking out the claim against the employer as substantial issues of fact had not been fully considered.

The appeal was dismissed.

In this unique case, the starting point was that the employee had been offered a job by the employer. It was not a situation where a number of applicants had been interviewed and the employee, on grounds of race, was not appointed. The employee was successful at the interview.

He was the applicant the employer wanted to offer work. Therefore, such an offer was made on condition that satisfactory references were provided.

Furthermore, it was held that there was no factual basis to show an indirect discrimination claim, even acknowledging that there was no race relations questionnaire. A questionnaire usually preceded a claim, whereas in this case the questionnaire had followed it.

It was held that the employee could not bring proceedings for indirect race discrimination simply because he was asked to provide satisfactory references before starting a job. Therefore the decision made by the chairman would stand.

If you require further information please contact us at enquiries@rtcoopers.com or Visit http://www.rtcoopers.com/practice_employment.php

© RT COOPERS, 2008. This Briefing Note does not provide a comprehensive or complete statement of the law relating to the issues discussed nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to highlight general issues. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in relation to particular circumstances.


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