Not so long ago, there were quite a few stories about people who regularly brought discrimination claims against unwary employers. Often this was because of some form of discrimination in recruitment – for example, we dealt with one where a job applicant brought an age discrimination claim on the basis of an advert which stated the role “would suit recent school leaver”.
Sometimes the claims were raised in order to highlight the problem to employers, but there were also worrying stories about people (such as the Claimant we came across in our example above) who were making a living by bringing claims against unwary employers, knowing that businesses were likely to settle claims rather than spend time and money defending them. Often the Claimants lived nowhere near the area where the employer was based, and had no relevant experience for the job.
The recent European Court case of Kratzer v R+V Allgemeine Versicherung AG dealt with a similar scenario. The Claimant had applied for a trainee position with the employer, and ironically the requirements for the role included a law degree! The Claimant was a qualified lawyer, and when he was not given an interview for the position he wrote to the company demanding compensation for age discrimination.
When the employer received his letter they offered him an interview for the role, but he declined, saying that his compensation should be sorted out first. He then brought a claim for age discrimination (and when he found out all the successful applicants were women, he also added a claim for sex discrimination).
When the German national courts rejected his claims (on the basis that he had no intention of taking the job) he took his case to the European courts.
The European Court’s conclusion was that someone who is only applying for a job to claim compensation could not be a ‘victim’ needing compensation under European equality legislation. Also, the Claimant could not rely on EU law to obtain undue advantage. It would be for the German courts to decide whether there was abuse in Mr Kratzer’s case, but the European Court felt that on the facts before them, it seemed relatively likely.
This case is good news for any employer who might be the victim of a vexatious claim. The number of claims has of course reduced significantly since the introduction of fees for Employment Tribunal claims and this has also led to a reduction in vexatious claims. Nevertheless, it is helpful to see the courts taking a robust view of cases which attempt to abuse the system.
If you would like to talk through a situation you are dealing with, or if you need advice on any aspect of employment law, please contact any member of the Pure Employment Law team (01243 836840 or [email protected]).