Warwick University agrees to Pay £35,000 after losing discrimination case
Academic not given job because she was Irish - Compensation on hold until after an appeal
By Clare Dyer, legal editor. Monday April 23, 2007. The Guardian
Warwick University has agreed to pay £35,000 in compensation, subject to appeal, to an Irish academic after a unanimous employment tribunal ruling that it discriminated against her on the grounds of her race. The Birmingham tribunal ruled last month that the university failed to select Patricia Walls for a research job because she was Irish and gave the post to a less-qualified candidate instead.
A spokesman for the university said that although it had agreed the amount of compensation, it did not accept the tribunal's finding that it was guilty of race discrimination and would be appealing. Payment of the compensation, for loss of earnings and injury to feelings, is on hold, pending the outcome of the appeal.
Dr Walls, 44, who originally comes from Northern Ireland but now lives in Chipping Camden, Gloucestershire, applied for a post in 2005 as a research fellow with the centre for research in ethnicity and mental health, part of the university's medical school.
The job was to carry out research aimed at improving mental health services for black and ethnic minority communities. Dr Walls, who has a PhD in ethnicity and health, has published and carried out extensive fieldwork on the subject. She works as an independent research consultant and holds an honorary research fellowship at Strathclyde University.
Of the four-person interview panel, which included three psychiatrists, two had worked with Dr Walls before. Sivasankaran Sashidharan, an honorary professor, had encouraged her to apply for the post after working with her at Glasgow on a project on the mental health of four minority communities: Afro-Caribbean, south Asian, Chinese and Irish. Hannah Bradby, a sociology lecturer, was on the same team as Dr Walls at Glasgow, but the tribunal found that the two had had a "poor relationship".
Of the three members of the interview panel who gave evidence, one said she had "flicked through" the university's equality and recruitment policies, while the other two admitted they had never read them. The panel did not assess the candidates against the advertised criteria and made their decision on interview performance.
During the interview Dr Walls asked which minority communities the research would cover and was told it would cover Afro-Caribbeans and south Asians. She said it would be a better project if it included the Irish and Chinese communities as well.
The tribunal said the candidate who was appointed had much less research experience than Dr Walls. She had yet to complete her PhD, although when Dr Walls queried the outcome she was told - in what the university says was a genuine error - that she already had a doctorate.
While Dr Walls had submitted a detailed CV, the successful candidate had not put in a CV at all. Dr Walls was given various reasons for her failure, some of which were "very misleading", the tribunal said. It concluded the decision not to appoint her was affected by the assumption the panel made that she would not be interested in the project unless it included the Irish community - an assumption which would not have been made about a non-Irish person.
Dr Walls said she was "very pleased" by the outcome and hoped it would encourage others to challenge flawed recruitment procedures.
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