The Equality Tribunal
EMPLOYMENT EQUALITY ACTS
DECISION NO. DEC-E2014-023
(Represented by David Quinn B.L. instructed by MacGeehin Toale Solicitors)
CPL Resources plc
(Represented by IBEC)
File reference: EE/2011/678
Date of issue: 9 April 2014
HEADNOTES: Employment Equality Acts - Sections 6 and 8 – Race - Access to employment.
1.1. This dispute concerns a claim by Marcel Boros that he was discriminated against by CPL Resources plc on the grounds of race contrary to section 6 (2) (h) of the Employment Equality Acts in relation to access to employment in terms of sections 8 (1) (a) of the Acts.
1.2. The complainant referred his claim to the Director of the Equality Tribunal on 26 September 2011 under the Employment Equality Acts. On 20 December 2013, in accordance with his powers under section 75 of the Acts, the Director delegated the case to me, Hugh Lonsdale, an Equality Officer, for investigation, hearing and decision and for the exercise of other relevant functions of the Director under Part VII of the Acts, on which date my investigation commenced. Submissions were received from both sides. In accordance with Section 79(1) of the Acts and as part of my investigation I proceeded to a hearing on 30 January 2014.
2. COMPLAINANT’S SUBMISSION
2.1. The complainant submits he is Hungarian and that on 17 August 2011 he submitted his CV for a Hungarian speaking Customer Service Role. He had the requested skills and experience; he was a native Hungarian speaker with a Master’s Degree in Hungarian language and history, with eight years teaching experience in Hungarian and five years’ customer service experience in Hungarian and English.
2.2. Someone from the respondent (Ms A) rang him within 10 minutes of him submitting his CV and gave the complainant further information about the job. She also sent him a job specification by email. He was then invited for an interview the following day.
2.3. At the interview on 18 August 2011 Ms A went through his CV and she realized he was not a Hungarian citizen. She said he was a citizen of Slovakia who had never lived and studied in Hungary and assumed he has poor Hungarian qualifications and a lack of Hungarian geographical knowledge. The complainant highlighted to her that he did have a good geographical knowledge of Hungary, that he had spent most of his holidays in Hungary and was well travelled throughout the country. Also, that he and his parents are native Hungarian speakers. He went to Hungarian primary and secondary schools in Slovakia and is a qualified Hungarian language, literature and history teacher. He submits the respondent said that their client would not be interested in his CV and that Ms A said “the Belfast person could also say he is Irish” and indicated she would treat his application less favourably. Ms A then rushed through some job related questions and then promised to contact the complainant by the following Tuesday, 23 August 2011. Just as he was leaving he asked how many candidates there were and Ms A said 2 but the other applicant is from Hungary
2.4. The complainant submits that he felt hurt by the discriminatory treatment so he called the respondent to speak to the manager above Ms A. He spoke to Ms B and she apologised for the treatment. She said their client would prefer someone from Hungary and not abroad. She gave an example of a Polish person living near Germany and applying for a job in Germany. The client would definitely prefer a German speaker instead of someone from Poland who had learnt German. The complainant told Ms B he is a native Hungarian speaker living beside Hungary who was looking for a job in Ireland and he could not accept her explanation. Ms B gave a second example that the successful person would have to work on the client’s map system and he might find it hard to find the streets in Hungarian towns. The complainant told Ms B that he could not imagine a person from the southern part of Hungary would know all the streets in in the northern towns and villages. Then Ms B suggested that he withdraw his application. The complainant declined and said that the purpose of his call was to see if Ms B could give any support in not losing out on this job opportunity.
2.5. The complainant was informed by Ms A on 23 August2011 that he was unsuccessful.
2.6. Ms B sent the complainant an email in October 2011 explaining the situation, but this was after the complainant had made his claim to the Equality Tribunal on 26 September 2011.
2.7. The complainant submits that he has been discriminated against when the respondent assumed his language skills and geographical knowledge would be poor because he was a Hungarian living in Slovakia, rather than being a native Hungarian. The advertisement stated the client was looking for someone who was ‘Hungarian speaking’ and not that the person needed to be Hungarian.
3. RESPONDENT’S SUBMISSION
3.1. The respondent submits that they are a recruitment agency to source and screen multilingual candidates for Local Data Evaluator Roles. The role involves employees reviewing the clients map and streetview systems and making decisions regarding the accuracy of the data based on local knowledge and language skills. The general criteria used for advertising and sourcing applicants are that the individual speaks the language of the country fluently and that they have a strong customer service background. The client also requested the respondent to use the following criteria at the screening interview stage. The applicant has:
- Experience of working in a target driven environment
- Good online knowledge
- Lived/worked in the relevant country for a minimum of 5 years.
The respondent submits they interview applicants during the screening stage and submit a shortlist to their own onsite team who review the candidates and forward one candidate for the client’s consideration.
3.2 The respondent submits that in August 2011 they advertised a “Hungarian Speaking Customer Service role” and the requirements for the role were:
- Excellent English with fluent Hungarian,
- At least 6 months in an office environment, i.e. customer service/admin
- Strong problem solving ability and able to work on own initiative,
- Excellent attention to detail and computer skills.
3.3 Ms A received an application from the complainant on 17 August 2011. She phoned the complainant but he did not answer and there was no voice mail set up so she sent him an email. The complainant responded and an interview was set up for the next day.
3.4 The complainant attended for interview on 18 August 2011. There was an initial conversation regarding his CV, Ms A explained to him that the role involved updating map and streetview systems and that the successful candidate would be calling business clients and ensuring that details such as the location were correct. The complainant was advised that the key requirements were Hungarian language fluency, customer service experience (particularly outbound calling), geographical knowledge of Hungary, experience of working to targets and technical and online experience. The complainant was asked to complete a consent form, which confirmed he was happy to be submitted for a role in the client’s offices, as he was considered to be a suitable applicant following his interview. Ms A informed the complainant that references were required from his previous employer and the complainant agreed to submit them that evening.
3.5 Ms A thought the complainant was suitable and put him forward for consideration by their onsite team.
3.6 Later on in the day of the interview the complainant rang and asked to speak to Ms A’s manager. He spoke to Ms B and said he felt he had been unfairly treated in his interview and that he was not treated as favourably as a candidate from Hungary. Ms B explained that Ms A had already submitted his CV to the Account Manager for consideration. She also told him that one of the client’s selection criteria was for candidates to have lived and worked in the relevant country for a minimum of 5 years. Ms B said there was no question over his language skills but that local knowledge was one of the screening criteria used by the client. She asked if he was still happy to be submitted for the role to the onsite team and he said he was.
3.7 The following day the complainant’s CV was submitted for to the respondent’s onsite team. The onsite team was only allowed to shortlist one individual for interview by the client. They chose to put forward another candidate who matched the client’s requirements more closely. Ms A phoned the complainant on 23 August 2011 to advise him that he had not been shortlisted.
3.8 The respondent submits that on 29 and 30 August 2011 they tried to speak to the complainant to discuss the matter and inform him that new Hungarian speaking roles were due to open in the client but they received no response from him.
3.9 The respondent submits there is no requirement for candidates to be a certain nationality. Also, they deal with people of many different nationalities and have placed a number of Hungarian nationals in roles. The respondent submits they promote the values of equal opportunities and they did not discriminate against the complainant.
4. FINDINGS & CONCLUSIONS OF THE EQUALITY OFFICER
4.1 The issue for decision is whether the complainant was discriminated against on the grounds of race in relation to access to employment. In making my decision I have taken into account all of the evidence, both written and oral, made to me by the parties.
4.2 In relation to access to employment Section 8 (5) of the Employment Equality Acts states:
“an employer shall be taken to discriminate against an employee or prospective employee in relation to access to employment if the employer discriminates against the employee or prospective employee—
(a) in any arrangements the employer makes for the purpose of deciding to whom employment should be offered, or
(b) by specifying, in respect of one person or class of persons, entry requirements for employment which are not specified in respect of other persons or classes of persons,
where the circumstances in which both such persons or classes would be employed are not materially different.”
4.3 In this case the respondent contends that he was discriminated against when he applied for a position with the respondent. He asserts that he is an ethnic Hungarian from Slovakia and was not given the same opportunity in being considered for the role as a native Hungarian. The respondent contends he was given the same consideration but the position was offered to someone they considered was more suitable, taking into account the skills and experience required for the role.
4.4 The advertisement for the role stated that it was a:
‘Hungarian Speaking Customer Service Role’ and ‘Hungarian Candidates Required for a customer service role and data entry’ and the requirements were listed as:
- Excellent English with Fluent Hungarian
- At least 6 months work experience in an office environment i.e. customer service/administration
- Strong problem solving ability and able to work on own initiative
- Excellent attention to detail and computer skills.
When he made an initial contact he was sent a job specification which, among other requirements stated, among other things, that language fluency was needed and ‘local regional knowledge strongly preferred’.
4.5 The complainant says he was told at the interview he was not suitable if he had not lived and/or worked in Hungary. He says he explained to Ms A that he was educated in Hungarian and that he had spent a lot of time, particularly in summer holidays, with relation in Hungary. This was noted in the record of the Screening Interview and on handwritten notes made on his CV by Ms A. These notes also record that the complainant never lived in Hungary and his parents were from Hungary, it also recorded that he speaks native Slovak.
4.6 The respondent contends that the complainant was put forward to the next stage, with one other candidate. The respondent’s onsite team then assessed the two candidates and chose the other. No one from the onsite team was available at the hearing to confirm the respondent’s assertion that the other candidate was chosen because of his better experience and qualifications. I note that the other candidate was born and lived all his live in Hungary but he had only one year’s work experience in Hungary. Therefore, the successful candidate was a native Hungarian.
4.7 Given that the complainant completed the consent form and was asked to furnish references I accept the respondent’s assertion that he was still being considered after the initial interview. He was then assessed with one other person as to who would be the one candidate to be put forward to the client. In looking at the nature of the role the fact that the complainant was not a native Hungarian was almost certainly a factor in him not being put forward to the client, when he was compared to someone who had lived all their life in Hungary.
4.8 When the complainant was informed, on 23 August 2011, he had not been put forward to the client he was also told the onsite team “will reconsider your application should additional roles open so I will be in touch once I have any further update.” The respondent also contends they rang the complainant on 29 and 30 August 2011 to advise him that they expected other Hungarian speaking roles were due to open but he did not answer his phone and they could not leave a message. The complainant denies that he received any such contact from the respondent. I note that no such roles came to fruition.
4.9 As I have already stated the complainant’s ethnic background was a factor in him not being put forward to the client. However, I conclude that the decision not to put the complainant forward was not made because of his ethnic background. Given that the ‘Qualifications & Requirements’ in the Job Specification included ‘Local Regional knowledge strongly preferred’ the fact that he had not lived in Hungary, was a factor in him not being considered as suitable for the position as the other candidate. In these circumstances it is reasonable for me to be satisfied that the respondent’s onsite team found the other candidate met the client’s criteria more closely and I conclude the complainant was not discriminated against on the grounds of his race in relation to his application for this role.
I have investigated the above complainant and make the following decision in accordance with section 79 of the Acts that the respondent did not discriminate against the complainant in relation to access to employment on the grounds of race.
9 April 2014