Sexism in recruitment: what not to write down when recruiting…

Employers have to be very careful during both the recruitment stages, and the course of employment itself to ensure acts or comments cannot be construed as discriminatory.

The recent case of Lucia Pagliarone v Immuno Biotech, has highlighted some of the issues employers face when recruiting. Although heard on Guernsey, it is likely that an English employment tribunal would reach the same decision when faced with similar facts.
Mr Noakes, the managing director of the respondent was found to have made insulting and gender-specific comments, which caused a detriment to the claimant. The claimant had found her CV on Mr Noakes’ desk with a note stating “red lipstick, heels –good; tattoos, do not approve; wearing a dress – excellent”. Mr Noakes had also remarked that he only employs “beautiful women”.
How can sex discrimination be avoided in recruitment?

  • Construct job adverts carefully, avoiding any words that could be construed as discriminatory, for example “young” or “mature”
  • Use standard interview questions for all candidates
  • Do not make any personal comments on interview notes
  • Managers should receive training on what amounts to discrimination, and how to avoid it
  • Monitor IT systems, including emails to ensure comments made in emails or on certain websites are not discriminatory
  • Ensure an adequate social media policy is in place

An employer can be found liable not only for their own acts, but for any discriminatory acts or harassment carried out by their employees, unless it can be shown they took all reasonable steps to prevent employees committing such acts. It is therefore important than employers take all the steps necessary to protect themselves from litigation.
Reasonable steps include:

  • Equal opportunities and anti-harassment and bullying policies
  • Ensuring all employees are aware of policies and any implications
  • Training managers appropriately
  • Acting upon any complaints effectively

Perhaps more obviously and hopefully specific only to a handful of cases, please remind those interviewing that if they must think such things, don’t write them down…..