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Court upholds ruling BT discriminated against man with autism

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Kevin Meier welcomed the decision made by Court of Appeal

Kevin Meier welcomed the decision made by Court of Appeal

Kevin Meier welcomed the decision made by Court of Appeal

Telecoms giant BT has lost an appeal over a finding that it discriminated against a young job applicant from Northern Ireland with disabilities.

The Court of Appeal upheld an industrial tribunal's decision in a case that had been brought by Kevin Meier.

Mr Meier (24) from Belfast graduated in 2017 with a 2:1 degree in computer science.

He lives with Asperger's Syndrome, dyslexia and dyspraxia and has a very high IQ of 139.

Mr Meier applied for a post with BT under its graduate recruitment scheme. On his application he indicated 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) - a widely-used recruitment tool which uses scenarios as a way of assessing applicants' judgment.

Mr Meier failed the SST, scoring 29 out of a potential 180.

He received an email informing him that based on the outcome of the test the company would not be taking his application forward to the next stage.

The tribunal, which had found in Mr Meier's favour, had accepted the evidence of a specialist clinical psychologist that the SST would put people with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) at a substantial disadvantage over people without an ASD diagnosis.

Last November the tribunal awarded compensation of £4,538 for loss of earnings and £12,500 for injury to feelings, with interest on the award for injury to feelings of £1,400.

BT appealed, but on Monday the Court of Appeal upheld the Tribunal's finding.

The Court of Appeal said: "The tribunal further concluded that the reasonable adjustments (that the claimant should not take the SST or that the score should not count against him) would have removed the substantial disadvantage from which the claimant was suffering.

"The reasonable adjustments were not impractical; would not have disrupted BT's activities and did not put a strain on BT's resources."

The Equality Commission supported Kevin Meier in defending the tribunal's decision.

Mr Meier 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 that this judgment will help other people with disabilities to secure employment in the future."

Equality Commission chief commissioner Dr Michael Wardlow said: "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."

A BT spokesperson 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 the Business Disability Forum named us a Disability Confident Leader in recognition of our work to remove barriers to employing disabled people. Whilst we're disappointed with the decision of the NI Court of Appeal, we accept that, on this occasion, we did not live up to our usual high standards and could have been more proactive in agreeing reasonable adjustments earlier in the recruitment process.

"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 options were declined in favour of litigation.

"We will, however, review our recruitment processes and remain committed to offering equality of opportunity to all job applicants."

Belfast Telegraph