Esme's direct marriage and civil partnership discrimination

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Direct marriage and civil partnership discrimination at work

Direct marriage and civil partnership discrimination is where you are treated less favourably because of your relationship status than someone without your relationship status would be treated at work.

An example of direct discrimination because of marriage and civil partnership at work would be:

A woman is unable to work the night shift at a warehouse because her manager believes married women should be at home in the evening to take care of their spouse.

There have been a few Employment Tribunal cases that make a claim for direct marriage and civil partnership discrimination. We’ll look at one such claim below.

The background

This case was brought against a private security business. Esme had originally been hired on as a bookkeeper for the company in 2005 before becoming a Director of the company in 2008.

It’s important to note that Esme had married another Director in the company in 2008, Robert. In 2016, she resigned from her role to take on more childcare duties. However, she was reinstated to the Director role in 2017.

In the same year, Esme told Robert that she wished to separate. Without informing Esme, another Director, Graham, had told staff to revoke her access to the company and its systems as she would no longer be working at the company.

A few weeks later, she had told Robert that she wanted a divorce. Her position was later advertised without her knowledge and her profile had been removed from the company’s website.

In January 2018, she received notice from an HR consultant that she was suspended on full pay pending an investigation, citing misuse of company IT, systems, and confidential and financial information. Both Robert and Graham reported her behaviour to the police, although no specific allegations were made and the police found no evidence to press charges.

Esme then submitted a formal grievance related to harassment and victimisation, due to her suspension and later being reported to the police. She was ultimately dismissed.

After Esme was dismissed, she brought claims for unfair dismissal, direct sex discrimination, and direct marriage and civil partnership discrimination to the Employment Tribunal.

The result

Her claims for direct sex discrimination failed. The Tribunal found that her treatment would have been exactly the same regardless of sex using a hypothetical comparator. Therefore, the claims were not well-founded.

However, she was successful in her claims for unfair dismissal and direct marriage and civil partnership discrimination.

The Tribunal found her dismissal was directly caused by the breakdown of her marriage. Graham had distanced himself from Esme following the separation and was complicit with Robert in urging the police to investigate Esme’s computer usage.

Graham had ultimately sided with Robert during their divorce proceedings, and the Tribunal found that due to the divorce, they were effectively pushing Esme out of the business.

Important things to remember about this case

It’s very important to name the right respondents in your claim. If you believe there should be multiple respondents to your claim because you were discriminated against by multiple parties, you should bring this to the Tribunal’s attention. You will need to have evidence proving each respondent’s part in your claim.

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