Super-skilled male secretary loses agency sex bias claim

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The Independent Online
A highly skilled male typist yesterday lost his fight to prove a secretarial agency would not find him a job because he was a man.

Alan Robinson, 30, claimed the national agency Office Angels sexually discriminated against him by failing to contact him after an interview at its Leeds office, despite a shortage of qualified typists in the city.

Mr Robinson, whose action was supported by the Equal Opportunities Commission, also claimed he was refused a typing test at the interview because he was a man.

Office Angels staff told the Leeds tribunal that it was standard procedure not to give applicants for a permanent post a typing test. And they insisted that Mr Robinson was sent three letters after his interview in July last year - one of them a standard introductory letter, and two about a job at Midland Bank. Mr Robinson, of Reinwood Road, Huddersfield, said he did not receive the letters.

The tribunal's chairman, Leslie Gould, told the hearing that the application was dismissed because Office Angels had given a "satisfactory explanation of what occurred". He added: "Due to the differences between what he said in his original application and the evidence we have heard, we have inferred that his recollection today is not accurate." Discrepancies included whether Mr Robinson said he was also available for temporary work, and whether he actually demanded a typing test or just asked if he was going to be given one.

Mr Robinson claimed that on the afternoon of his interview three women were given typing tests. But the barrister for Office Angels, Thomas Linden, said the women were applying for temporary jobs and it was procedure to give them a test. Another male temp was interviewed and tested on the day and was eventually offered a post by the agency.

Mr Robinson, unemployed, had RSA typing qualifications including a distinction in one exam. However, he failed to include the qualifications on his Office Angels application form.

Mr Linden said: "It's quite extraordinary that Mr Robinson did not say that he had outstanding qualifications." But Mr Robinson's solicitor Martin Brewer said: "The reason he wasn't offered any job was because he was a man and he did not fit in with their stereotype view of what a secretary ought to have been."

After the verdict Mr Robinson said: "Obviously I feel disappointed but having said that, I feel it's brought the issue of equality for male typists to the forefront. I have achieved that."