Gerry Freedman stalks charities threatening them with legal action if they don't give in to his outlandish claims
Charities are being warned against an unemployed man who threatens organisations with fake disability legislation if they don’t give in to his outlandish demands.
Gerry Freedman (pictured above), from Leith, Edinburgh, bombards charities, FE colleges and community groups with job applications demanding hotel rooms, first class transport and cash expenses.
Freedman says he is disabled, suffers anxiety and is clinically depressed and claims to have stood for the Conservative party in Manchester and Leith local elections.
Other unwitting charities could easily fall foul of this man’s demands - Faye Johnstone
It has also been confirmed he was on the board at Blackwood Group - the Edinburgh-based housing association.
For years, the Walter Mitty character and self-styled “disability consultant” who fakes expertise on disability law, has stalked dozens of organisations with incessant demands, threatening legal action if they don’t accept.
His Facebook and Twitter accounts, which he has taken down since being contacted by TFN, showed him staying in exclusive hotels across Scotland, enjoying holidays abroad and even attending interviews at a host of FE colleges and charities.
When asked by TFN why he was targeting charities, Freedman said: “My disabilities are my business. I’m doing absolutely nothing wrong. Leave me alone.”
However one unwitting charity said it had to redraft a job description and seek legal advice following an incredible 26-page application from Freedman while another said it spent over £1,000 on a lawyer after he threatened to sue the community group if it didn’t accept his incredible demands.
Faye Johnstone, who runs a charity offering respite for disabled children in Perth, said Freedman’s time-wasting demands created havoc within the organisation.
His 33-page long application for an unpaid trustee post was accompanied by a series of bizarre demands including: first class travel from Edinburgh to Perth; a four star hotel room for two nights with meals for Freedman and his partner; £100 cash for taxi fares; and demand to be compensated for a new suit he was “required” to wear to interview.
“He created absolute turmoil,” said Johnstone. “We’re a small charity with no experience of legal issues or disability legislation. So his aggressive demands made us channel much-need resources into dealing with his application rather than being used to support disabled children and their carers.”
And Johnstone warned: “He needs to be stopped. Other unwitting charities could easily fall foul of this man’s demands. How many have given in to him because it’s an easier option than seeking expensive and complex legal advice?”
John Fotheringham chairman at Partnerships for Wellbeing in Inverness received an application from Freedman last month for a trustee post. He told TFN the application was from the outset “aggressive and bizarre” demanding accommodation and expenses from the charity.
He also demanded he was given an interview.
“We had to redraft our application because of the threats he made against us,” he said. “It meant all our resources as a small charity had to be used fending this man off. He wouldn’t give in. It was intimidating and distasteful. I can only warn others to beware of him. If anything, he’s persistent. Alarmingly so.”
Ben Doherty, head of employment at law firm Lindsays, said charities aren’t defenceless against serial applicants.
He said: “If you do receive an application which doesn’t appear genuine – for example because it is a long list of requests for reasonable adjustment, don’t ignore it - take early advice.”
Have you been affected by this issue? Email Robert Armour, in strict confidence.
How to deal with serial applicants
Ben Doherty head of employment law at Lindsays advises:
First, consider reviewing tribunal records to identify whether they have brought previous multiple claims. Bear in mind that a tribunal will not uphold a discrimination claim if an applicant had no intention of applying for or taking the job
Refer to a well drafted equality policy when setting out job and person specifications
Ensure those involved in the selection or interview process have received training in equality
Leave health-based questions – except those designed to identify reasonable adjustments required for the recruitment process – until after shortlisting or an offer is made
Keep full records of all steps taken and the reasons for them in case of a claim