It is the Equality Act 2010 that establishes the ability to bring action for unlawful discrimination. It is only in relation to a “protected characteristic” that action can be brought. The reason for the unfavourable treatment/discrimination must be due to a “protected characteristic” for the individual to be afforded protection under the act. So what is a “protected characteristic”? The Act dictates that the following are:-
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and Civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
Each protected characteristic has a statutory definition under the Act and therefore must be looked at carefully before unlawful discrimination can be established. Interpreting the meaning of each protected characteristic gives rise to various case law.
A recent case heard by an Employment Tribunal on 10th September 2019 (Conisbee v Crossley Farms Ltd and others) held that vegetarianism was not a “belief” qualifying for protection under the Act. Mr Conisbee alleged that he had suffered discrimination on the ground of religion or belief, his belief being vegetarianism. The Employment Tribunal held that although his belief was genuinely held and was worthy of respect in democratic society it failed to meet the other legal hurdles for protection under the Act. In their judgement the Tribunal ruled that it did not have a similar status or cogency to religious beliefs.
This decision does not have to be followed by other Tribunals in the future but is an interesting approach to what amounts to a “belief” for the purpose of the Equality Act 2010.
Who is protected? Under the Act there is a wide range of potential claimants for discrimination claims. This includes the following:-
- Job applicants
- Contract Workers
- Agency Workers
- The police
- Individuals in a business partnership
If you consider you have suffered unlawful discrimination then please seek our advice. Do not delay. There are strict time limits for bringing a claim to an Employment Tribunal, whereby claims must be brought within three months of the date the discrimination occurred.
Employment Specialist solicitor