Stopping Employment Discrimination – Learning from my civil servant prejudices

I’ve wanted 2012 to be my best year ever, and so far it is. Along the journey this year I have had to deal with civil servant after civil servant, and I now hold some legal prejudices about them:

  1. They will not do what is in the public interest, but what is most expedient for them
  2. They don’t have initiative and will do anything to get out of doing more work or thinking creatively
  3. They care more about increasing their salary and pension than help out of poverty those they have power over
  4. They will go to extreme lengths to deny members of the public a benefit or make them subject to a detriment
  5. They will sooner treat a member of the public with a complaint as a ‘trouble maker’ than a individual who needs help.

I’m sure you’ll have come across a number of civil servants who are like this. They are in my view an embodiment of the ‘computer says no’ sketch on Little Britain. I have even set up a website that invites people to expose them.

Being an employer I always want the best person for the job. While it is not illegal to discriminate against former civil servants, I thought I’d see what would happen if I put myself in the position of the people who have discrimianted against me as someone with a ‘protected characterstic’.

I want the best person for the job. If I get the CV for someone who worked in the civil service at Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council I might immediately think they have all the attributes in the list above, and more likely then not I would probably be right. But believing this to be the case without evidence is prejudice. Denying them a job solely based on this prejudice is discrimination – though in the case of civil servants it is not illegal.

If I were to ask them at an interview whether they had those characteristics, even if they did they would likely deny it, or use their well toned skills as subterfuge to avoid answering the question. But unless I was able to prove they were lying, it would be clear discrimination to deny them them job, even if it was not illegal.

These are some untrue reasons given to me for not being given a job which were based on prejudice and therefore amount to discrimination:

  • Newport University; “You say you want to do a PhD, so clearly can’t want to do the routine duties with video editing” – I have a degree in multimedia and spent most of my life doing multimedia!
  • The Labour Party; “You […] lack communication and team working skills and would be no good on Question Time” – Within 5 years of that time I have become a successful social entrepreneur and Internet trolling expert and proved that prejudice wrong, and now I can speak without notes, which I see most Labour politicians including Ed Miliband find it difficult to. It is really amusing watching these people and knowing I am more skilled than them – through practice, practice, practice!
  • An unnamed university: “[C]learly you can’t teach and we need your medical records to check whether you can before letting you, even if you use a support worker” – Within a year of this I was delivering speeches without notes as above.

So, my opinion is now this. If an employer gives a reason why someone should not get the job, which is not based on any evidence they have, as opposed to don’t have, then that should be a clear case of discrimination. Any ‘reservations’ an employer or similar has about why someone may not be up to the job should not be valid forms of dismissing someone’s application if there is no evidence to support them.

So on this basis if I declined an application because I thought a civil servant met one of those criteria and in fact they didn’t then that would be discrimination – although not illegal. I therefore think that if employers or similar have any concerns about someone that might make them think they are not the “best person for the job” when they could be, they should be made to test the competencies they have concerns about.

In the case of my discriminations above this might be:

  • Newport University; To have asked me, and other applicants, to have done 2 hours and video editing and seen how we enjoyed it. When I applied for a job at Barry College, they did something similar by making me take a programming test in the library to ensure I was comfortable around the students.
  • The Labour Party; To have asked me to deliver presentations to branch or constituency meetings, or get involved in chairing a party conference session.
  • An unnamed university; To have given me the chance to have delivered a lesson in front of a live class. A colleague who became the art teacher at Hawthorn High School did this, as did my sister-in-law when she applied to a school.

So in the case of the civil servants, I might use ‘dead-zones’. These are the time periods before and after an interview where employers set up circumstances to see if the employee will fit in. So it could be used to see whether they have the initiative or concern for others that one might want. For some reason, most of the dead-zones I have been in people ask “do you drive” or “how did you get here”, which could land them up in Court, as it is indirect discrimination.

So in essence my view is that any employer or similar who denies someone a position for a reason based on prejudice and not evidence should be considered to have committed discrimination.

In my view, regardless of whether an employer thinks one has a medical condition, if they deny someone a position for a reason that is a symptom of their disability then they should face the most severe penalty under the law. Equally, there should be a strong case for discrimination if the reason someone is turned down is for a reason that is false, even if the employer or similar thinks it is true.

So the question we need to ask is that would it be better to have ‘honest references’ rather than ‘good ones’? Would it not make sense that if an employer has reservations about an applicant that they be allowed to contact their referees to see if this is true? If it were the case that a referee who misled an employer was open to legal action for any loss then they would give truthful references. The only trouble is there would have to be  measures to prevent ‘fishing expeditions’ where someone may ask a referee a series of questions to make it easier to eliminate a candidate they have prejudices against rather than seek to include them by having concerns refuted.

 

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