One (male) lawyer's dream.
A tribunal has ruled that an Australian law firm did not discriminate against a solicitor because he was a man, and has rejected his request that its female leaders write "I like men" ten times by way of apology.
Dawn Anters emailed his CV to DG Thompson Costs Lawyers after seeing an advert for a Costs Solicitor vacancy, but he was unsuccessful following a Zoom interview with DGT principal Kerrie-Ann Rosati and solicitor Tara Ryan.
In his complaint, Anters sought $5,000 compensation for injury to feelings, plus a letter of apology, and for “Both Ms Rosati and Ms Ryan separately to write I Like MEN - by hand using a red ink pen on a piece of white paper no less than 10 times and scan and email this writing to me”.
Asked by Anti-Discrimination New South Wales how he had been affected by his rejection, Anters claimed, “I have become offended, embarrassed and humiliated. Also, I have found both Ms Rosati and Ms Ryan very attractive and beautiful. Therefore, the magnitude of the offence and humiliation caused by the discrimination of someone to whom I am attracted to is far severe [sic]”.
Anters told the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal that he noticed from DGT's website that all its lawyers were female, and wondered whether he had only been called to interview because ‘Dawn’ was an atypical male name.
During the interview Rosati appeared “upset and fidgety”, said Anters, who noted that his ex-girlfriend had “told me that my voice is very manly”.
Rosati also mentioned that “this job is not about wearing a suit”, which Anters, who wore a suit for the interview, claimed she would never have said to a female candidate.
Ryan had used a smiley face emoji in an email to Anters when he first applied for the role, and the heartbroken lawyer cited its use as evidence that she was friendly when she thought he was female.
That friendliness faded when she first saw him in the interview, he alleged, where she “appeared a little blushed” while asking him about relocating his family.
Anters argued that it was all proof Ryan and Rosati were unconsciously biased and “purely favoured female candidates”.
He argued that his request that they write 'I like men' was in line with a principle of unreasonable contractual clauses set out by Lord Denning, and that he specified red pen so they would remember it more clearly.
Confronted with the accusation that his comments about his interviewers’ beauty were “offensive, misguided and patronising”, Anters threw up a mini essay in which he argued that we should all own up to fancying each other.
“It is strange for me to think that if a person finds another attractive that feeling of attraction could alone cause offence to the other. It is my feeling - a completely natural feeling – and, despite being an Officer of the Court, we all have it. I believe it is a good feeling - one that should be promoted”, he said, arguing in his closing submissions that Rosati taking offence “reveals her adverse bias against the Applicant as a male candidate”.
The tribunal agreed with Rosati that her reference to not wearing a suit pertained to the firm’s relaxed working environment, rather than an anti-male one, particularly as women also wear suits. Rosati had also pointed out that a male lawyer had worked at the firm under her tenure, while a number of other current staff were male.
In fact, she said, Anters' application was rejected because of his “stilted and formal manner during the interview”, and because he formed no rapport with the interviewers. Ryan said it was apparent he was “not a fit for the office”.
It emerged during the tribunal that Anters had brought an unsuccessful discrimination claim against another law firm that had rejected him for a role, partly because he didn’t wear a suit to the interview. He just can't win.
He accepted under cross-examination that he was pursuing two other claims that he couldn’t discuss due to non-disclosure agreements, and had others that were pending, and yet more that had concluded, but he denied that he was making complaints just to rake in settlement money.
Although it dismissed the claim, the tribunal declined to grant DGT’s request for costs on the basis the claim was vexatious, ruling that “the Tribunal does not consider that Mr Anters’ claim as a whole was frivolous or vexatious", even though parts of it were, such as his demand that the women write 'I like men' ten times, and his request for higher damages because he found his interviewers "beautiful and attractive".