Adelle Martins, 31, who is black, first complained to an industrial tribunal after she was turned down for a job in January 1992. The tribunal ruled that there had been discrimination and awarded her pounds 3,000 for injury to her feelings and gave her leave to apply for compensation for other losses.
The panel said that she did not get the job because of her ethnic origins and that although Marks & Spencer had taken steps to counter the perception of it as "a white, middle-class organisation", they had had little effect on the staff's ethnic mix. The company took the case to an employment appeals tribunal, which found in May last year that the the company had taken "reasonable" steps to eliminate racial discrimination.
Ms Martins, of Wandsworth, south London, went to the Court of Appeal, which yesterday upheld the findings of the employment appeals tribunal. Lord Justice Mummery said the approach of the industrial tribunal was "defective", substituting its own favourable assessment of Ms Martins based on its own observations of her at the tribunal, for that of the Marks & Spencer interviewers. "That is an unsound basis for a finding of less favourable treatment or for a legitimate inference of discrimination on the ground of race."