business consultant John Silver


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Fighting racial discrimination at job interview


Mauritius being a multi-cultural and multi-racial country, we would all tend to think that interviewers, recruiters and companies remain open about the applications of anyone received irrespective of race, sex, creed, political views or sex. However, in practice, the reality can be an ugly one. In an attempt to try to fight this, the government has laid great emphasis on equal opportunity in the workplace even at interview level. 

But how far would a candidate who is jobless and without financial resources fight this discrimination. When the implied conversation from the recruiter says that you have all the competencies, experience and qualifications but that you are not white/black/brown enough? 

Would an employment law just like you have in South Africa where it is compulsory to hire a percentage from a minority community help? But how does this person be motivated to work when we are judging him or her in the first place based on her race? 

Upon coming across by an article from Philip Landau, I began to question myself. He puts forward that many job applicants of an ethnic minority have changed their name or appearance to try to overcome prejudices. 

But what are your legal rights if you think your prospective employer has discriminated against you at the interview stage, and what practical steps can you take?

Your first thought may be that although you have suspicions, it will be impossible to prove that prejudices have been the reason for you not getting an interview or being offered the job. There is, however, something you can do. In other countries, an individual who thinks he or she has been discriminated against at interview stage is able to serve upon the employer a discrimination questionnaire which allows them to effectively "grill" the employer about their treatment.

A questionnaire is most useful when you are not sure if there are sufficient grounds to bring a discrimination claim and need to elicit further information from the employer. The form already includes some standard questions such as asking the employer to what extent it agrees with your version of events; what their own version of events is; and if the employer accepts that the treatment of you was unlawful – and if they don't, why not?

Employers are not obliged to reply to a questionnaire, or a particular question raised, but if they do not or their answers are evasive – and this is very important – the tribunal may in any subsequent proceedings draw an inference that the employer has discriminated against them.

But it is nevertheless a right of redress and may be an important tool for applicants who deserve to be offered a position based on their skills and qualifications, but have faced the prejudices of discriminating employers. 

How far will the Mauritian government be willing to have forward such amendment in our recruitment process or will we all behave like the ostrich and pretended nothing happened and everything was done by law?