A candidate for the bench has lost an employment tribunal claim against the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) over reasonable adjustments. 

Employment tribunal

In a judgment published this week, employment judge Postle ruled that Jonathan Rackham’s claims under the Equality Act were not well founded.

The JAC accepted that the online application forms and multiple-choice situational qualifying tests would have put Rackham, who has autism spectrum disorder and Asperger’s syndrome, at a substantial disadvantage compared with a non-disabled candidate - but argued that the measures it took were a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

The tribunal agreed.

Postle said: ‘Clearly, courts and tribunals deal with complex and abstract cases with time constraints. The whole purpose of the selection process is to test candidates’ ability and it clearly would not be appropriate to adjust the process to such an extent that it undermines the process itself to select those who can perform in the role.’

Rackham argued that adjustments the commission should have made include simplified questions on the application form. However, Postle said the questions were ‘no more complex than the legal questions the tribunal would have to answer at a hearing’.

Postle found that reasonable adjustments were afforded to Rackham, such as submitting the application form offline and being helped by someone to complete it. Certain adjustments Rackham wanted were ‘simply not realistic’.

Rackham argued the commission should have set up a mock scenario to assess how he reacted and responded using scenarios set out in the qualifying tests. While a mock scenario was a ‘legitimate aid’ that an applicant would face in a tribunal, setting up live ones was ‘far too onerous’ on the commission, Postle said.

‘The qualifying test that simply involves 20 questions would have to be scripted, the form loaded and have to be done in a time frame which would be a significant burden on the respondents. It was simply not reasonable or realistic to turn it into a live video,’ the judge said.