Case Law Update: Palmer vs AIMS Markets Limited

In the case of Palmer vs AIMS Markets Limited, Mr Palmer applied for a role as a senior HR professional but was unsuccessful following alleged comments from the prospective employer that they wished to recruit ‘fewer white men’. Whilst he was unsuccessful in his discrimination claims, the employment tribunal decided that he did not have to pay his employer’s costs on this occasion.  


In 2021, Mr. Palmer submitted an application for the position of “People Lead” at AIMS Markets. Subsequently, he received a communication from the managing director, Mike Jones, who invited him to participate in a preliminary screening interview. 

Despite being on holiday with friends at the time, Palmer agreed to have the interview from his hotel lobby which, unbeknown to Jones, was overheard by his companions. Within the course of the interview, Mr. Jones outlined AIMS’ overarching goal of fostering diversity within the financial services company. The claimant and his friends assert that Mr. Jones made reference to the company’s preference, aspiration, or intention (with disagreement over the specific verb) to hire “fewer white men.” 

Mr. Jones, while acknowledging discussing diversity, contends he cannot recall the precise phrasing used, refuting the alleged statement and attributing any misunderstanding to misinterpretation. 

Ms. Hopper, an external HR consultant engaged by AIMS, was present for part of the interview when Mr. Jones discussed the objective of enhancing diversity. However, she denies hearing any explicit mention of not wanting to hire white men or aiming to reduce their representation. 

During the recruitment process, it was determined that the role should be an operational level position, rather than a strategic level role as originally advertised and this was communicated to applicants.  

Following a further in-person interview, Mr. Palmer was not extended a job offer, with the respondent citing his salary expectations as being excessively high (£20,000 higher than the job listing). They were also concerned that he was too senior for the position they needed and had other concerns about how he spoke a lot in the interview and whether he would be a good listener. Subsequently, the claimant discovered that the position had been filled by a white woman. 


Palmer brought claims of discrimination, asserting that the “fewer white men” comment amounted to sex and race discrimination. However, the tribunal ruled against him, emphasising that a company’s desire for diversity does not automatically imply discriminatory hiring practices.  

In this case, the tribunal found on the balance of probability that Jones had expressed the company aimed to have fewer white men as a proportion of the workforce, rather than a refusal to recruit white men. Furthermore, the candidate eventually selected for the role was also white, undermining the racial discrimination claim.  

Although the tribunal ruled that the company’s diversity goals were not indicative of discriminatory practices, the judge acknowledged Palmer’s sincere belief in facing discrimination. As a result, despite the unsuccessful outcome for Palmer, he was not required to cover AIMS Markets’ costs. 

Learning outcome for employers 

This case underscores the complexity of navigating diversity initiatives in the hiring process. While organisations strive for inclusivity, it is imperative to communicate these goals transparently and consistently to avoid potential legal challenges. Employers must recognise that fostering diversity should not be misconstrued as discriminatory practices against certain demographics. 

To mitigate risks, employers should establish clear job descriptions, ensuring that expectations for the role are well-defined. Transparent communication during interviews is essential, with an emphasis on ultimately evaluating candidates based on merit and qualifications rather than demographic factors. In this case, the tribunal highlighted the importance of distinguishing between an organisation’s commitment to diversity and discriminatory practices. 

Furthermore, the judge’s decision not to award costs to AIMS Markets serves as a reminder to employers to assess the reasonableness of their actions during legal proceedings. Employers should maintain professionalism and avoid behaviour that could be perceived as unreasonable or vexatious, even in the face of legal disputes. 

In conclusion, while the case did not find in favour of the employee, it serves as a valuable lesson for employers to approach diversity initiatives with clarity, ensuring fair and transparent practices throughout the hiring process. This approach not only aligns with legal requirements but also contributes to building a workplace culture that values both diversity and inclusivity. 

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