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February 26, 2020

Lawyer denied job for being ‘expensive’ wins age discrimination case and is awarded compensation

An experienced solicitor, Raymond Levy, has been awarded over £13,000 for loss of earnings, injury to feelings, aggravated damages and interest, by a Manchester employment tribunal.

The employment tribunal found that Mr. Levy was not offered a job at McHale Legal due to his age. The tribunal found that Mr. Levy was discriminated against because of his age even though he was the only person interviewed for the job.

Initially, Mr. Levy was rejected from McHale Legal because he was deemed too “expensive”. The tribunal ruled that this was code for “an experienced and older solicitor” and that the company then altered the requirements of the role after it had made the decision that Mr. Levy was not suitable.

After being made redundant in early 2018, Mr. Levy applied for a commercial property role at McHale Legal and called the senior solicitor responsible for the role at McHale; Maria Udalova-Surkova, to express his interest. The role required 5 years PQE (post qualified experience) and would be based in either London or Manchester. After a brief chat, they arranged to meet for an initial interview on 7th March 2018.

The new role was to replace a senior solicitor in the commercial property team, and was described as “urgent, due to work piling up”. Mr. Levy stated that he was available immediately and suggested that the salary of the associate that was leaving should be a start point for discussing the salary requirements. Mr. Levy asked for around £50,000, even though the associate leaving was only on £42,000, just under a 20% increase. Mr. Levy then also offered to work on a self-consultancy basis. “Next Monday” was floated as a potential start date and that a final decision was subject to a meeting with the departmental heads on 8th March.

At that meeting, it was decided that Mr. Levy was “too expensive and doesn’t cover all our needs.” In a follow-up sequence of emails, Udalova-Surkova asked McHale’s Managing Partner, Andrew McHale, to confirm “we are not interested in Raymond Levy, right?” to which Mr. McHale’s reply was “yep”.

On 12th March, Udalova-Surkova emailed Mr. Levy to state that the firm had decided not to offer him the job.

Mr. Levy then brought discrimination claims to the tribunal citing that it was only his age that prevented him from being offered the job.

In conclusion, the employment tribunal stated that Mr. Levy met all the required qualifications for the role and that in normal circumstances would have likely been offered the job. Only after Mr. Levy was deemed “expensive” was the job description altered.

In providing the judgment, Judge Sharon Langridge decided to reduce Mr. Levy’s award due to the firm no longer handling commercial property work meaning his role would not have lasted long anyway.

These reasons led to the tribunal finding that his time at the firm would have only lasted for one month before being handed his notice.

The tribunal ruled that McHale Legal pay £13,188 to Mr. Levy for loss of earnings, injury to feelings, aggravated damages and interest.

Caroline Wood, Director of HR Heroes, stated how important it is to think carefully about the wording in job adverts and if specific requirements, such as PQE could dictate the age of a potential candidate, to be open to the fact that this might attract candidates of differing ages.

In addition, you should also take into account if what you deem as an ‘overqualified’ or ‘expensive’ candidate presents themselves, that if they are willing to complete the role at the salary point you are willing to offer, regardless of their experience or age, that they too should be considered.

What you need to avoid is the content of adverts placing potential candidates at a disadvantage and placing you at risk of the equality laws, because even though Mr. Levy was not an employee and had not completed one day of work for McHale Legal, he still raised a claim for age discrimination against them, which ultimately succeeded and cost the company over £13,000 in compensation.

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