The company I am working for (in IT) has recently published job openings in the area I am working in. My superior asked me, among other colleagues, to support him evaluating the applications, as we do not have a human resources manager in charge of this.

At the moment, there are two applicants, both coming from the middle east. When I talked to him about the applicants today, he told me that the very first employee he hired also came from the middle east. This person has apparently not been sufficiently qualified for the job and the contract was terminated very soon. He then went on to say that he felt "uneasy" about the two applicants and did not consider them for the position advertised because they came from the same region as his first employee and his negative experiences with this person.

Edit: The position they applied for is not in academia - it is about providing IT support for a department in a completely different academic discipline.

I felt quite clearly that my superior, who is in charge of the application process, would reject the two applications because of racial prejudice.

What can I do in this situation? I do not consider my superior a particularly malevolent person - in fact, as far as my job is concerned, I do not have any complaints about his behaviour. Still, I think it is my moral obligation to try to remedy some of the injustice here or at least make it known somehow. I would like to give the two people who were rejected a fair chance in the application process or, if this is not possible, try to take measures that avoid discrimination in the future.

I am not particularly attached to my job here, but I don't like burning bridges if this is not neccessary, either. Also, I am afraid of an open confrontation with my superior because of personal reasons (I am generally quite afraid of arguing with other people) and because my impression is that he probably would not understand the point I am making.

Some final, legal remarks: I live in Germany and work at a German university. I am aware that the behaviour of my superior is illegal based on Section 1 in conjunction with Section 2(1) AGG. However, it might be hard to prove in court as my superior only spoke to me about this topic and did not put it down in writing. He might easily argue he rejected the applicants because the job requires a near-native level of German - a qualification neither of the applicants appears to have.

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    What exactly are you hoping to achieve? – solarflare Jul 31 at 0:54
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    You said he rejected the because they came from the same region, not because they (presumably) were arabs. He is probably passing judgement on the educational system in that area, not the intellectual capabilities of those that live there. You even said he said they were not qualified, not that they were stupid. – Gregory Currie Jul 31 at 1:12
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    There are parts of the world where 2nd languages are very common. I've worked with a lot of developers from various parts of the world who have an excellent command of the English language. And I've worked with many developers from other countries who just plain don't. Unless the Middle East is a hot bed of people who have near-native level proficiency in German, the way many Indians have a fair grasp of English, your manager could be giving you a straight answer. – Julie in Austin Jul 31 at 1:37
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    @GregoryCurrie the devil is in the detail: OP said the applicants had poor language skills but he is completely ignoring that and trying to make it a racism issue. I see this sort of thing all the time and honestly it makes my blood boil. If the job requires language skills and you reject people who lack that skill pulling out the race card is not going to help anyone other than make you sound like someone just trying to ruin someones career and livelihood just because it will make you feel good and progressive about yourself. It is the ridiculous state of the world right now. – solarflare Jul 31 at 1:53
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    @solarflare Good point. I understand your frustration. I might have worded it a bit differently, but that's just me. – Gregory Currie Jul 31 at 2:25

First of all, I am not passing any judgements regarding any region, or any judgements on the suitability of the selection criteria, other than to address the concern that it was racist.

The section of the act you mention is quoted below (in English):

The purpose of this Act is to prevent or to stop discrimination on the grounds of race or ethnic origin, gender, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.

I believe the specific section you believe is in breach is that of “ethnic origin”. Ethnic origin is quite different from nationality. People of similar ethnic origin can be spread throughout the world. And wtithin one area of the world, you can also have a diverse range of people of different ethnic origins. This is certainly true for some parts of the Middle East.

This person has apparently not been sufficiently qualified for the job and the contract was terminated very soon. He then went on to say that he felt "uneasy" about the two applicants and did not consider them for the position advertised because they came from the same region as his first employee and his negative experiences with this person.

The key parts of your question have been bolded. Your superior is passing judgement on the qualifications from the region.

Had your superior accepted John Smith, but rejected Fulan AlFulani and they come from the same region, the justification doesn’t hold. (Presumably they would be making a judgement on ethnic origin).

It is no secret that when it comes to interviewing, interviewers bring the bias of previous experience into play. This does include biases around certain educational systems, and education providers. What is unacceptable and should be responded to is when that bias breaches law.

You can certainly make a moral argument, and an argument based open the best outcomes for the business. This is quite different from an accusation of racism, and you would approach it quite differently.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Snow Aug 1 at 6:09

He said he was "uneasy" not that he wouldn't consider them. I'm certain that hiring managers have been "uneasy" about hiring individuals simply because they didn't support the same sports team as the manager. If you really feel a candidate is good then you can push for them to be given a chance. Of course it's in your interest to make sure that the background check/tests done to screen candidates is better than it was when your supervisor hired the first employee.


not been sufficiently qualified for the job and the contract was terminated very soon

Maybe change the focus away from race and discrimination and look for ways to convince him that there are sufficient skills and qualifications for the job?

Are there ways to do some formal assessments or ways to for you both to see the level and type of work that the two candidates produce in an objective way? If they are programmers, can you ask them to tackle some real-life issues on an open platform such as Github, etc? Or able to email you both good examples of difficult work that would satisfy your boss?

Yes there is likely to be discrimination but the way out of it is to increase the level of comfort and familiarity with more evidence and information of competence and ability rather than just be forced to hire people that your boss and the department will not support and expect to fail :(

protected by mcknz Aug 1 at 2:07

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