Serial litigant hits £100K mark

July 29, 2005

A serial litigant who has made numerous race discrimination claims against universities has won two further victories at employment tribunals.

The latest cases mean that economics and finance lecturer Suresh Deman has won at least £100,000 in tribunal payouts or out-of-court settlements since 1996.

Mr Deman has been awarded £15,000 compensation for victimisation by Nottingham University, after he was rejected for jobs by a head of department who, according to the tribunal, was aware of Mr Deman's history of litigation.

The 50-year-old lecturer, from Eltham in London, has also won a discrimination claim against the private European School of Economics, after he failed to reach the shortlist for two posts.

"I have now won four claims and have reached five out-of-court settlements," said Mr Deman, who has brought cases against at least 13 universities. "I am not doing this for fun or for the money. I am a victim of repeated discrimination and victimisation."

Mr Deman is an American citizen of Indian origin. He has been engaged in a seemingly endless trail of lawsuits since he was sacked from a post at the University of Pittsburgh in 1988 - a case in which he eventually won the equivalent of £28,000 in an out-of-court settlement - and came to Britain to work.

After brief spells working at Queen's University, Belfast, (where a case is still pending), and Greenwich University (from which he won £43,000), most of his cases have related to his failure to be appointed to advertised jobs and his claim to have been "blackballed" by the sector because of his litigious reputation.

He is currently in dispute with Bradford University over the award of his PhD.

In Mr Deman's most recent judgment, the Nottingham Employment Tribunal said that Nottingham University's failure to shortlist him for three jobs in 2000 and 2001 represented victimisation under race discrimination laws - but were not acts of race discrimination.

The tribunal said that Ian Gow, head of Nottingham's Business School, who was named in one of Mr Deman's previous legal claims relating to his earlier employment at another university, had "interfered" in the shortlisting process to ensure Mr Deman was not interviewed.

It said that Professor Gow had been "deeply wounded" by being named in the earlier action and had shown that he "disliked Mr Deman intensely".

It concluded that while Mr Deman had little realistic chance of obtaining the jobs he had applied for, and while Professor Gow was not in any way racist, Mr Deman had been victimised for making previous claims, which are "protected acts" under the law.

The tribunal awarded Mr Deman £10,000, with interest, for the injured feelings resulting from the victimisation.

A further £2,500 was awarded by the tribunal for "aggravated damages", because two business school professors, Mike Wright and Alistair Bruce, had "added insult to injury" by trying to explain Mr Deman's failure to be shortlisted by disparaging his academic record.

"To cover up what we believe was conscious victimisation, they portrayed the claimant as not being worth the least consideration," the tribunal said. This was "high handed, malicious, oppressive and insulting".

The tribunal said that "Mr Deman will always struggle actually to secure an appointment now" in top universities, partly because since 1996 he has allowed his research to take "second place in his life to various other matters including the conduct of litigation".

A spokesperson for Nottingham said that all claims of racial discrimination were rejected, and the university's procedures had been shown to be sound and effective.

"The finding by the tribunal of 'victimisation' is disappointing and puzzling," she said. "It can only be viewed as reflecting a technicality - the fact that in the tribunal's view the university took note of previous actions taken by the applicant against other institutions when evaluating his application."

In a separate judgment in June against the European School of Economics, a London tribunal said that Mr Deman was discriminated against on the grounds of race when he failed to reach the shortlist for two positions. The level of compensation will be set at a later date.

phil.baty@thes.co.uk

TEN YEARS OF TRIALS

Suresh Deman has won at least £100,000 in tribunal victories or out-of-court settlements in the past ten years. These include:

WINS...

1996 He won £28,000 after being sacked, in 1988, from the University of Pittsburgh

1998 Three claims against King's College London were settled for £12,000, but the college did not admit any liability.

2002 He won £43,000 from Greenwich University after two of 70 separate complaints were upheld. Greenwich dismissed him unfairly, and hurt his feelings, the tribunal ruled.

2005 He won £15,000 from Nottingham, for victimisation.

2005 He won an undetermined sum for race discrimination from the European School of Economics.

Mr Deman also said he has reached out-of-court settlements, for undisclosed sums, with Imperial College London and Queen's University, Belfast.

...LOSSES

* Among Mr Deman's most famous losses is his case against the Association of University Teachers.

Although in a 1999 judgment, the North London tribunal branded former AUT chief executive (and current government minister) David Triesman "ignorant, naive and complacent" about race relations, it rejected Mr Deman's claim that the union had discriminated against him in failing to support his various claims against Queen's Belfast.

In 2003, Mr Deman won an appeal against the ruling, and the case was re-heard. But he lost again after a fresh hearing in 2004, and is now pursuing another appeal.

* The Commission for Racial Equality this week also confirmed that Mr Deman had "not won anything" in cases against it. His attempt to have a judicial review of a decision by the CRE not to offer him support in a number of cases was rejected.

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