- 18 Jan 2016
- Rasmus Linding
An employer was ordered by the Danish Board of Equal Treatment to pay around EUR 670 in compensation for making a comment about a candidate having a non-Danish name.
In the evaluation of a candidate for a job, only objective criteria may be given weight. As a result, the employer is not allowed to obtain information about a candidate's ethnic or national origin. If the employer does so anyway, he may end having to pay compensation to the candidate. In this complaint before the Danish Board of Equal Treatment, the question was whether an employer had violated this principle by commenting at a job interview that the applicant's name was not a typically Danish name.
The case concerned a job applicant of Indian origin with an Indian name. At the interview, the employer commented on the candidate's name, and the candidate had to explain his national origin. The parties disagreed as to the exact words that had been spoken by the employer. To the candidate's recollection, the employer had said: "So, I can see from your name that you are not from Denmark", whereas the employer recalled saying something along the lines of: "I can see that your name is not typically Danish, please tell me about yourself…".
When the candidate was subsequently rejected for the job, he believed that the unpleasant atmosphere caused by the employer's comment in his opinion had been a contributing factor as to why he was rejected. The candidate therefore filed a complaint with the Board of Equal Treatment.
The employer argued before the Board that the comment was to be understood in its proper context as it had been an attempt to open a dialogue between the parties and that the answer to the question had been of no consequence.
The employer further argued that if there had been any intention on his part to discriminate on grounds of the candidate's name, he would simply not have invited the candidate for the job interview.
The Board held that – regardless of the parties' disagreement as to the exact words that had been spoken – the employer had obtained information about the candidate's ethnic and national origin.
Accordingly, the candidate was awarded around EUR 670 in compensation.
Norrbom Vinding notes
- that the decision is a reflection of a very literal interpretation of the prohibition on obtaining information about a candidate's ethnic and national origin as well as the other protected grounds in section 4 of the Danish Anti-Discrimination Act; and
- that employers should therefore be very careful in which questions they ask at job interviews.