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Company can bring a discrimination claim

Posted by TonyBrownEmploymentSolicitor on October 6, 2015

Is a company is entitled to bring a claim of discrimination because of the protected characteristic of a person associated with it? Yes, held the EAT, upholding a claim by a solicitor providing his services to the respondent through his own service company. 

In that case, the Claimant provided his services full time to a firm of solicitors through his own service company and which he established to benefit from the advantageous tax scheme applicable to limited companies. 

Under the firm’s partnership agreement, a member was required to retire from the partnership when he or she reached 62, and in line with that provision, on achieving 62, the Claimant was required to stop working.

The Claimant objected to his compulsory retirement. He was not eligible personally to bring a claim because he was not an employee of, nor did he have a contract to provide services personally to, the firm. Instead, his company made a claim for associative age discrimination under S13 of the Equality Act 2010.

The ET decided that it had jurisdiction to consider a claim of associative age discrimination brought by the Claimant’s company.

Dismissing the firm’s appeal, the EAT rejected the firm’s argument that only an individual is protected from discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 because only an individual can have a protected characteristic.

The EAT stated that wording of the relevant provisions in the Equality Act 2010 (section 13(1)) refers to discrimination “against another…because of a protected characteristic” and there was no reason to restrict the meaning to an individual: the term could cover both an individual and a corporate body.

The EAT also decided that there is no reason in principle why a corporate body is any differently placed from an individual to complain about adverse treatment which it has suffered because of the protected characteristic of a third party associated with it.

Comment

Although it acknowledged that this was an unusual case, the EAT decided that there was no reason in principle why a limited company could not complain about adverse treatment which it had suffered because of a protected characteristic of a third party, in this case, its director and sole shareholder, the Claimant.

The decision opens the door to companies bringing claims both before the ET and also for discrimination in the provision of goods and services before the High/County Court.

If you would like advice about how the issues in this note apply to your situation, please contact Tony Brown on 01225 740097 or by e mail to tony@bathemploymentlaw.co.uk

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