Virgin Atlantic job name change race claim by Max Kpakio

Max Kpakio Max Kpakio applied for a call centre job under two names with Virgin Atlantic

A man born in the African country of Liberia says he was rejected for a job interview with airline Virgin Atlantic until applying in a fake "Welsh" name.

Max Kpakio, 36, of Swansea, claims racial discrimination by Sir Richard Branson's company over a call centre role and wants £55,000 compensation.

He says he was invited to an interview after applying as "Craig Owen", an employment tribunal heard.

At an employment tribunal Virgin denied discrimination. Judgement was reserved.

Start Quote

The reason I was rejected was because of my ethnic origin - because I'm black African”

End Quote Max Kpakio

Mr Kpakio, a father of three, is claiming loss of earnings and injury to feelings from Virgin Atlantic.

Virgin Atlantic said the two CVs had differences which led to Mr Kpakio being rejected for the customer service role.

The hearing in Cardiff was adjourned to consider a decision within 28 days.

Mr Kpakio, who has lived in Britain for 10 years, was rejected for the role in the Swansea call centre and suspected it was because of his unusual name, the tribunal heard.

He reapplied using the false name of Craig Owen and said he was immediately invited for an interview.

Virgin Atlantic Max Kpakio applied for a call centre job under two names with Virgin Atlantic

Mr Kpakio, who moved with his family from Liberia to escape civil war, told the hearing: "The CV and the equal opportunities form clearly identified me as someone not born here, not schooled here and a black African.

"The reason I was rejected was because of my ethnic origin - because I'm black African.

"I decided to test Virgin Atlantic by reapplying under a pseudonym. I chose the Welsh name Craig Owen and filed the job application, answering three main questions very similarly to how I had answered them on my original form."

He said money was not his motivating factor, he wanted people to be treated "fairly and in a just manner".

'CV differences'

Virgin Atlantic claim there were differences between the two CVs Mr Kpakio submitted.

Start Quote

The real reason you did that was not to test Virgin Atlantic but because you wanted to claim compensation”

End Quote Alexander Robson Representing Virgin Atlantic

They say the "Craig Owen" application had five years' experience working in Asda and Tesco supermarkets which were not on the other application.

Alexander Robson, representing Virgin Atlantic, told Mr Kpakio: "If you really wanted to test them you would have done so by simply changing the name and ticking a different ethnic box on the equal opportunities form.

"But you added work and an employment history which simply did not appear on the original. When we see the difference between the two CVs we see one with five years of customer-facing roles.

"The real reason you did that was not to test Virgin Atlantic but because you wanted to claim compensation."

Virgin Atlantic also claim they were unable to tell Mr Kpakio was from Africa from his original application.

Mr Kpakio, who is unemployed, said he resented any accusation that he just wanted compensation and said the only thing he wanted was a job.

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