Virgin Atlantic was today accused of racism after allegedly rejecting a job application from an African refugee, but accepting him when he applied with a British name. Max Kpakio was turned down for a call center job, and when he suspected his foreign-sounding name was at fault, he re-submitted his application under the name Craig Owen. He claims the enthusiastic response the second application received proves that his initial rejection was based solely on racial discrimination, and is taking the airline to an employment tribunal. The 36-year-old graduate was born in Liberia, but has lived in the UK for the past 10 years and is now a British citizen.
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After he failed to respond to their initial email, they sent a string of messages saying how much they were looking forward to meeting him.
'There was an enormous difference in the way I was treated when I used a British name,' Mr Kpakio said. 'When I was first sent a rejection, I couldn't understand it - I thought I had provided a very good CV.
'I'd offered advice to clients over the telephone before, so I believed I was a very good candidate for the job.
'It occurred to me that my ethnic origin may have something to do with the rejection. I then decided to make a further application to Virgin, using the name Craig Owen.
'They were in touch with me seven or eight times, and kept coming back to me when I didn't respond.'
Mr Kpakio moved to Swansea with his three children in 2002, to escape the civil war which was tearing his home country apart.
He earned a degree in International Relations from Swansea University.
His case for alleged racial discrimination against Virgin, which was founded by flamboyant tycoon Richard Branson, is due to be heard by an employment tribunal in April.
A spokeswoman for Virgin Atlantic said: 'We are an equal opportunities employer. 'We pride ourselves on providing opportunities to talented people regardless of their race, sex, age or other characteristic.
'We take allegations of discrimination extremely seriously.
'And whilst we do not comment on individual cases, we strongly deny any of our recruitment decisions or practices are discriminatory in any way.'
Research done over the past few years have suggested that job applicants with foreign-sounding names face obstacles to being hired in many lines of work.
A number of studies in which researchers have submitted identical CVs under two sets of name, British and non-British, have shown that the former are significantly more likely to receive a positive response from employers.