Court of Appeal upholds discrimination case against BT

Kevin Meier, who lives with Asperger's Syndrome, applied for a job with the telecommunications giant under its Graduate Recruitment Scheme Credit: UTV

The Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal by BT after a job applicant with disabilities was found to have been discriminated against.

Kevin Meier, who lives with Asperger's Syndrome, applied for a job with the telecommunications giant under its Graduate Recruitment Scheme. He graduated from university in 2017.

Mr Meirs indicated on his application that he was seeking to avail of the BT Disability Confident Scheme, which he believed guaranteed him an interview if he met the minimum criteria.

As part of the automated recruitment process, Mr Meier was asked to sit an online Situational Strengths Test (SST).

The test uses scenarios as a way of assessing applicants’ situational judgement.

Mr Meier failed the SST, scoring 29 out of a potential 180 and received an email informing him that based on the outcome of the test, they would not be taking his application forward to the next stage.

The Tribunal, which had earlier found in Mr Meier’s favour, had accepted the evidence of a specialist clinical psychologist that the SST would put people with Autism Spectrum DIsorder (ASD) at a substantial disadvantage over people without an ASD diagnosis.

Following the decision being upheld by the Court, Mr Meire said: “I am delighted that the Court of Appeal has upheld the Tribunal’s decision.

"I believe it was an important case to take. I am grateful to the Equality Commission for their support. I hope this judgement will help other people with disabilities to secure employment in the future.”

Chief Commissioner of the Equality Commission, Dr Michael Wardlow, also welcomed the decision.

"“It’s clear from Kevin’s experience and from the Tribunal and Court of Appeal judgments that, where part of a recruitment process is not suitable for some disabled applicants, a reasonable adjustment must be made to allow someone with different but equal abilities to show how they could meet the requirements of the job.

"All employers must recognise that they have a legal duty to be proactive and consider what reasonable adjustments would be appropriate.”

He added: “The gap between disabled people and non-disabled people in employment is a large one and has been there for many years.

"Not just employers, but our policy-makers, must look again at how it can be reduced."

In a statement, a spokesperson for BT said: “BT is committed to diversity in our workplaces and we believe our track record of employing people with disabilities speaks for itself.

"We’re proud that Business Disability Forum named us a Disability Confident Leader in recognition of our work to remove barriers to employing disabled people.

“We’re pleased the tribunal acknowledged our efforts to offer a range of adjustments, such as adjusting the test conditions or simply bypassing the test altogether.

"These efforts were declined in favour of litigation. However, we accept that, on this occasion, we didn’t live up to our usual high standards and could have been more proactive in agreeing reasonable adjustments earlier in the process."