The Home Office racially discriminated against an immigration officer by refusing him a job based on how many relatives he had in India.
British-born Vitesh Patel was hired and then fired just two hours later, a tribunal heard.
Mr Patel had applied for a dream job as an officer working in Delhi but was deemed a security risk because 37 members of his extended family who he barely knows live 900 miles away.
Ruling that Mr Patel was directly and indirectly racially discriminated against, Employment Judge Graeme Hodgson said: “It is rare to find such clear, direct evidence of discrimination.”
Mr Patel, from Leeds, applied to be an immigration liaison officer in Delhi after seven years working at the Home Office.
He had risen through the Home Office ranks from 2009 to 2016, gaining more responsibilities and access to sensitive information.
He breezed the interview, showing off French, Gujarati and Hindi language skills and was offered the a two-year posting in Delhi.
At that point, he needed further security clearances, and during that process he was asked about relatives in India. The list he submitted, with his mother’s help, included her extended family members and their spouses.
Number of relatives
On 30 January, 2017, Mr Patel received the email confirming the post.
Two hours later, a further email said: “This posting will not go ahead as planned due to family connections”.
Stephen Sowerby, the senior personnel security manager, said to Mr Patel in an email: “You will surely appreciate… it presents a risk that the employee may come under significant and unwelcome external pressure – in addition to the obvious conflict of interest risks.”
Mr Sowerby said he felt 37 relatives was an “unusually large number” and offered Mr Patel an alternative post in Doha, Qatar, but he put off accepting it for a number of reasons.
Judge Hodgson said: “We have no doubt that Mr Sowerby was expressly confirming that he treated differently those individuals who are either naturalised British citizens or who were British born citizens who have a significant national origin connected with another country.
“Moreover, it is also clear that this concern goes far beyond a simple recognition that an individual may have a number of relatives in another country.
“There is a suspicion of individuals who are either naturalised British citizens, or who are British, but have a national origin connected with another country, such as India.”
He added that reference made by the Home Office to the potential conflict of interest makes it clear that those individuals are seen as a higher potential risk than people who do not share that racial characteristic.
“The racial characteristic, in this case ethnic origin, caused him to form the view the claimant may succumb to a request for information because he had a conflict of interest.”
The tribunal is talking to both Mr Patel and the Home Office to try to find an agreed settlement.
‘An unjustified stereotype’
The judge concluded that it was implicit in the Home Office’s behaviour that the individual is more likely to succumb to pressure because of the potential divided loyalty.
He added: “It can only be understood in the context of a belief that someone of Indian ethnicity would be more likely to succumb to the ‘conflict of interest’ thought to exist by Mr Sowerby.
“This, in itself, would suggest an unjustified stereotype.”