Was everyone chasing the same job as you? And if you didn't get it, why did someone else?

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A recent case in the European Court of Justice (ECJ) shows what you have to look out for if you're applying for a job that other people might also be interested in.

employment law

Ms Meister applied twice for a job with the German firm Speech Design Carrier Systems GmbH. Although she had the right experience for the role according to the adverts she saw, her applications were rejected without interview on both occasions.

So Ms Meister brought a claim for sex, age and race discrimination in the German labour court. On asking to see the successful candidate's file, she was shocked when Speech Design refused. The company said her claim should be dismissed since she had no evidence to support it.

The German labour court turned to the ECJ for guidance. The court asked whether a candidate who, despite meeting all the criteria, is rejected, is entitled to know whether someone else has been hired and, if so, what requirements the successful candidate met

The court also asked whether an employer who refuses to disclose this information would be unlawfully discriminating against an unsuccessful job applicant.

What the ECJ said


The ECJ decided that EU Directives on discrimination do not give unsuccessful candidates the right to information on whether another candidate was hired, even if they themselves fully met the criteria advertised.

But the ECJ also confirmed that where an employer refuses to supply such information, this can be taken into consideration by an employment tribunal when coming to its decision on a discrimination claim.

In the case of Ms Meister, the ECJ said the German labour court should take on board the following:

  • That Ms Meister had all of the relevant qualifications required for the advertised job
  • That despite 2 applications for the job, Ms Meister was not granted an interview
  • That Speech Design refused to produce the file for the successful candidate

What could this mean for you?


Even though there’s no legal right to be informed of the reasons why you weren't hired and someone else was, employers know that to withhold such information could go against them if you make a claim for discrimination.

For this reason, it can do you no harm to ask. If your employer thinks that withholding the information might compromise its chances of defending a claim, you might just get the information you've requested.

Even if they refuse to tell you why you didn't get the job – and remember, disclosure isn't obligatory – you can ask them why they're withholding this information. Employers know that if you pursue a claim for discrimination, an employment tribunal has the power to order them to give you the information you requested anyway.


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