A police force which rejected a “well prepared” potential recruit because he is a white, heterosexual male has been found guilty of discrimination. Matthew Furlong, 25, whose father is a detective inspector in Cheshire Police, applied to join the force in 2017.
When Mr Furlong lost out to other candidates, his father lodged a complaint. An employment tribunal ruled the force had enforced “positive action” to recruit people with different characteristics but in a discriminatory way.
Mr Furlong, who studied particle physics and cosmology at Lancaster University, said he was told during the interview “it was refreshing to meet someone as well prepared as yourself” and that he “could not have done any more”.
This is the first reported case of its kind in the UK where positive action has been used in a discriminatory way. Matthew was denied the job simply because he was a white, heterosexual male.
The tribunal in Liverpool declared Mr Furlong had been a victim of direct discrimination on the grounds of his sexual orientation, race and sex. It ruled that while positive action can be used to boost diversity, it should only be applied to distinguish between candidates who were all equally well qualified for a role.
The force’s claim it had seen 127 candidates who were all suitable for the role of police constable was a “fallacy”, the tribunal ruled, and imposing such an artificially low threshold – assigning candidates a pass or fail rather than any kind of score was not a balanced response to addressing the force’s lack of diversity.
In 2015 Cheshire Police was criticised for having no black officers, but has since taken steps to improve opportunities for those of different ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and disability.
The case has been adjourned until later this year for a remedy hearing to determine the amount of compensation to be awarded.
A representative for Cheshire Police said: “We have been notified of the outcome of the tribunal and will review the findings over the coming days.”