Solicitor who joked about novichok during an interview with a Russian speaker didn’t get the job

A solicitor who was refused a job at a law firm because he was too old has won £13,000 compensation despite cracking a ‘joke’ about his Russian-speaking interviewer poisoning him with Novichok. 

Raymond Levy told senior lawyer Maria Udalova-Surkova: ‘I hope you are not going to poison me,’ before she interviewed him for a position at Cheshire-based law firm McHale Legal Ltd, in the wake of the Salisbury Novichok poisonings in March 2018.

The firm, which at the time had ‘a lot of Russian clients,’ subsequently turned him down for the job and Mr Levy, then 57 and now 59, took them to an employment tribunal.

Mr Levy told senior lawyer Maria Udalova-Surkova (pictured): ‘I hope you are not going to poison me’ just days after the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury in March 2018. But Mr Levy took them to an employment tribunal after they turned him down for a job as a solicitor even though he was the only candidate

The lawyer, who had a long career behind him working mainly for firms in London and the home counties, accused McHale of age discrimination, pointing out that he had been the only applicant for the job, but had not got it.

Instead, he received an email saying the firm had decided to look for a lawyer with between three and five years’ post qualification experience.

The firm had originally advertised that they were looking for a commercial property solicitor with more than five years’ experience. 

The new criteria would have ‘excluded’ the ‘vast majority’ of solicitors aged 40 or over from applying for the job, employment judge Sharon Langridge found.

She found that, although Mr Levy’s ‘remark about poisoning may not have endeared him to Ms Udalova-Surkova,’ his age was ‘the principle reason’ he was turned down.

She pointed to notes from an internal board meeting which stated his wage level as an older and more experienced solicitor made him ‘too expensive’ and went on to order the firm to pay him £13,187.83 compensation, including £4,000 for ‘injury to feelings’.

The judge said that Mr Levy, who was admitted as a solicitor in 1985 at the age of 24, had attended an interview on 7 March 2018 at one of McHale’s offices in the north- west, after seeing an advert for a vacancy in the Law Society Gazette.

Explaining the Novichok incident, the judge said: ‘Before the interview started, Mr Levy was in the firm’s reception area and accepted the offer of a drink.

Mr Levy's interview came at the time of the poisoning in Salisbury of Russian Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. Pictured: Crime scene investigators walk in hazmat suits in the town

Mr Levy’s interview came at the time of the poisoning in Salisbury of Russian Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. Pictured: Crime scene investigators walk in hazmat suits in the town



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