Man wins sex discrimination case in tribunal

December 10, 2009

A male academic has won a sex discrimination case against the University of Surrey.

An employment tribunal said the university had rejected psychologist David Gilbert for a lecturing job because he had brought a sex discrimination claim against a previous employer. Surrey has agreed to pay him £18,000 in compensation.

Dr Gilbert resigned from the University of Hertfordshire in 2000, claiming that the university had mishandled complaints by female students that he had made improper remarks. In 2001, a tribunal found that he had been unfairly dismissed by Hertfordshire, but said he had not suffered sex discrimination.

In 2007, Dr Gilbert wrote to Jane Ogden, head of psychology at Surrey, to inquire about a teaching job. He referred to the events at Hertfordshire and said that he had not worked since. Professor Ogden encouraged him to apply for the job.

Subsequently, a human resources officer at Surrey analysed the tribunal decision in the Hertfordshire case and voiced concerns that Dr Gilbert had chosen a "legalistic route" to deal with the problems at that university.

Dr Gilbert was rejected for the job after an interview with Professor Ogden and the associate dean for learning and teaching, Chris Fife-Schaw, who had both seen the HR officer's briefing.

The pair said that Dr Gilbert had performed poorly at interview and that Professor Ogden had found him "arrogant and annoying".

But the tribunal said Professor Ogden could provide no evidence of her assertion. It also drew an "adverse inference" from the fact that the two professors did not take notes during the interview.

The interview process "appeared to be weighted towards establishing facts about the claimant's previous claim ... rather than considering the suitability of the claimant for the position," the tribunal said.

The university settled the case before a remedy hearing that had been scheduled for 2 December.

In a statement, Surrey said: "We would prefer not to comment on this case at the moment pending a decision on bringing forward legal action against Dr Gilbert."

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