Indirect Religious Discrimination

The EAT in Pendleton –v- Derbyshire County Council has  held that it was indirect religious discrimination to dismiss a teacher for refusing to leave her husband after his conviction for sex offences.  The claimant had been a longstanding teacher with a clear record.  Her husband who was a head teacher was convicted of making indecent images of children and voyeurism.  The claimant was dismissed.

The claimant was successful in a claim of unfair dismissal as the school had failed to show that the dismissal was for gross misconduct or some other substantial reason.  The claimant had also argued that the dismissal was based on a “practice” of dismissing someone who had chosen not to end a relationship with a convicted sex offender and therefore amounted to indirect religious discrimination. She as a Christian regarded her marriage vows as sacrosanct.  The Employment Tribunal rejected this argument but it was overturned by the EAT who held it to be indirect religious discrimination on the particular facts of the case.

The EAT’s reasoning was that the claimant would be in a group, that was put at a particular disadvantage by the “school’s practice” of dismissing those in her situation and there was no justification for the dismissal.  This case may not fit comfortably with parents of schoolchildren!

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