A woman turned down for a job as a judge’s clerk has lost her age discrimination claim against the Ministry of Justice.
The claimant had previously had a long career in legal administration but was unsuccessful in her job application following an interview in March 2020.
She made three allegations of unfavourable treatment over a four-day hearing at the London Central employment tribunal, saying she was discriminated against because of her age and passed over for the job in favour of candidates in their 20s (the claimant was over 55 at the time of the interview).
But Employment Judge A James said MoJ staff who oversaw the interview process were not biased against the claimant, whether because of her age or for any other reason. Scores given to the claimant were a ‘reasonable reflection’ of her answers and it was found all candidates were treated in the same way by being marked at the end of their interview and the results subject to a panel discussion.
The tribunal heard that HM Courts & Tribunals Service had been recruiting 30 judges’ clerks in total. The claimant had begun her legal career as a legal secretary and since 2005 had been a judge’s clerk based at the Royal Courts of Justice. She left this role in April 2018 after working in all three divisions of the Court of Appeal and also worked for the then president of the Employment Appeals Tribunal. There was no dispute that she had been successful in her previous role as judge’s clerk.
On recruitment exercise, the tribunal heard that the claimant was the only candidate to attend both a skills test – which she passed – and interview on the same day. The judge said this treatment had nothing to do with her age and did not influence the decision not to appoint her.
The tribunal found that the claimant was not appointed because she did not reach the required standard at interview, and that someone in the 20-25 age bracket would not have been appointed either. The tribunal accepted that the claimant perceived ‘animosity’ towards her, and there was an awkward moment at the end of the interview when she offered to shake hands (the pandemic was in its very early stages at the time), but there was not evidence of discrimination. Furthermore, the two-month delay in providing feedback requested by the claimant was due to the highly unusual circumstances at the time and had nothing to do with her age. The claim was dismissed.
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