Brighton supermarket criticised over treatment of deaf job applicant

Posted On 12 Aug 2016 at 6:31 pm
By Claire Jacobs

A Brighton supermarket has been criticised for the way that it treated a deaf job applicant.

James Blake, 18, went for a shelf-stacking job with the Asda branch at Brighton Marina. He was called for an interview on Tuesday 26 July.

His mother, Alison Blake, described the interview as “the most awful experience” and is considering making a formal complaint.

Mr Blake was looking for a part-time job to fit around his studies. He is on a creative media film course. He completed a written application form for the Asda job which included a question asking him to state any disabilities.

Mrs Blake said: “James stated on the application form that he was deaf. He was then invited to an ‘Asda Magic’ session which was booked by email.

“We assumed that because they had asked about disabilities on the form they would read it to check and arrange relevant interpreters. When we arrived they had no idea James was deaf and there was no interpreter.”

James Blake and his mother Alison

James Blake and his mother Alison

Mr Blake was expected to be interviewed alongside five other applicants. When he was called in, Mrs Blake said: “The interviewer asked to have a word with me outside and said, ‘it would have been nice if you had told us your son is deaf.’

“I was stunned and said that he had informed them on his application form.”

She said the man’s response was: “Just saying. A heads up would have been nice!” He then walked back into the interview.

Mrs Blake said: “I was stunned but didn’t want it to upset James as this was his first ever interview.”

She remained with James throughout the interview to act as his interpreter but she felt that it was difficult to translate some of the group discussions and he was “put at a disadvantage” because of this.

During the interview Mrs Blake said there were scenarios that Mr Blake was expected to discuss with the other applicants that were about management positions.

She said: “I thought the interview would be about James and if he could do the job of stacking shelves, not the kind of scenarios for a management position.

“At one point I was told in front of everyone that ‘everyone needs to participate in the next exercise’.

“I was totally humiliated as James didn’t know what he had said and I felt he was implying James wasn’t making any contribution to the group and that anything he did say actually came from me rather than him.

Asda Brighton Marina

“When I left I was so angry I was almost in tears. By the time we got home, about five to ten minutes, James had an email from Asda saying he hadn’t got the job. That says to me that they hadn’t even considered him.”

This response left Alison upset as she said her family have spent “many years building James’s confidence that we didn’t want it knocked by his first experience of the working world. He is completely comfortable with his deafness and independent as any 18-year-old should be”.

Mrs Blake posted on a couple of local Facebook pages – Brighton People and the Hanover Community Board – to ask whether anyone knew of any part-time positions for which Mr Blake could apply.

She was overwhelmed by the responses which included many positive suggestions and Mr Blake has since applied for a job at Sainsbury’s.

She said: “James had an interview at Sainsbury’s and they were great. I had to call them and arrange the interview, at which time I explained that James is deaf and they immediately asked if he needed an interpreter, which we happily accepted.

“He got the job and has an interpreter booked for his induction.

“He came away from Asda with a feeling that he didn’t like and I know that he was extremely uncomfortable not having a proper interpreter.

“It makes all the difference which was proved when he came out of Sainsbury’s with a big beaming smile and then being offered the job two days later.”

A spokesman for Asda said: “While we can’t comment on individual recruitment cases, we are saddened that Mr Blake felt disappointed with his interview experience and we would like to invite him back in to meet with our store manager.”

Claire Jacobs writes the blog Confessions of a Single Parent Pessimist.

  1. David Eve Reply

    I hope James gets the job he deserves. In my working life I have worked with deaf colleagues including ASDA ( Hollingbury!)
    I am surprised ASDA have made such a pigs ear of this as when I worked for the company they were very supportive of disabled colleagues. Obviously standards have slipped, and training on disability and diversity needs to be instituted.

  2. D Reply

    This isn’t just about how they treated a candidate, who one would presume was at interview stage having had his application reviewed by ASDA. This is also about how disrespectful ASDA were to his mother. Someone should teach him some manners!

  3. joanne weller Reply

    this is make me so angry whAT is wrong with the ASDA is not deaf awareness …i have a deaf friend who work in asda in lancing and hollingbury …they are happy there but marina …maybe they are sobber bec of the marina is a nice place or a posh area …i am working as a homebase for 16 years …love it and so friendly i am glad james happy with his new job …wish him a good luck

  4. June Garner Reply

    This is disgraceful and whoever the interviewer was should be sent on some Equality and Diversity training immediately. James my son is profoundly deaf and works in Sainsburys during holidays from Uni – they are excellent!

  5. Alicia Mitchell Reply

    Fire that interviewer! Full stop.

  6. Michael S Poirier Reply

    I was surprised to see this. I strongly would recommend that you must contact EEOC for ADA violation since the application has already stated that if you are disability in which he has stated for his deafness. No excuse for mis-reading

  7. Pingback: Deaf News: Brighton supermarket criticised over treatment of Deaf job applicant | The Limping Chicken

  8. Rosie Malezer Reply

    If only I lived locally to you, I would love to see your son’s CV for future prospective employment. Alas, I live in Finland. Your words hit hard to home for me, as we are not deemed suitable to work in Finland if we are Deaf. I am now an author, proof-reader, translator, copy editor, publisher and professional book reviewer, none of which requires a hearing boss. My illustrator (when I write children’s books) lives in London and all of our interaction is done via email. At first, she was scared to work with a Deaf person, but in time, she realized that together, her and I are a well-oiled machine.

    Unfortunately, there are a lot of audists and surdophobic ignoramuses out there who love nothing more than making Deafies feel worthless, useless and a waste of space. Do not let this moron drag you or your son down. I am glad you voiced your experience for the world to hear and I have shared this despicable person’s actions with the Deaf community also.

    As hard as it is, hang in there, chin up, and believe that things will work out. I hope our paths cross some day. xx

    • Emma Reply

      Hello Rosie,

      I cannot say how overjoyed I am to see this… I’m hearing impaired (Wear hearing aids, but cannot use phones / need to lipread – not that people understand this)
      You see after many years working in the hearing world, passed over for promotions or lower paid jobs being JUST admin…

      Feeling worthless, many tears…

      I now quit this world and self employed… I’m an artist with my own business (Still building) and looking to illustrate my own book, so its heart warming to see that others are doing it and working with hearing world as well… My dream.

  9. Tina Lannin Reply

    James is lucky to have such a supportive and positive family and mother.

    Some employers (actually, individual employees) haven’t a clue and aren’t really interested in diversity and giving an opportunity to a deaf employee. I am totally deaf, I have a degree in Japanese and I run my own company. I can do most things a hearing person can do – I’m only deaf, not daft.

    Tell James I said well done. I am glad he has found a nice employer.

  10. John Reply

    Feel for your son but as they say live and learn and I’m sure he has and will have more respect for people than those who interviewed him, a onwards & upwards James …

  11. Pingback: Charlie Swinbourne: Survey shows businesses need to change how they work with deaf employees | The Limping Chicken

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