Posted by Richard Woodman, Partner
Dismissal for refusing to leave husband is indirect religious discrimination
In another somewhat unusual case factually, Pendleton v Derbyshire County Council, the EAT dealt with an appeal by a claimant against the dismissal of her claim for indirect religious discrimination on the ground that she had been sacked because she refused to leave her husband who was convicted of making indecent images of children and voyeurism.
The claimant was a teacher with several years unblemished service. Her husband was a head teacher when he was convicted of the above allegations. When he was convicted, and the claimant refused to leave her husband, the school dismissed her. She succeeded in an unfair dismissal claim because the school was not able to show that the dismissal was either gross misconduct or “some other substantial reason”.
The reason for the dismissal was based on a “practice” of dismissing someone who chose not to end a relationship with a convicted sex offender. As such the claimant alleged she had been indirectly discriminated against on the grounds of her religious belief; her Christian faith meant that she considered her marriage vows were sacrosanct. Although the Tribunal rejected this claim the EAT overturned the decision and substituted a finding of indirect religious discrimination. It held that it was inevitable that she would be in a group, i.e. those holding a belief in the sanctity of marriage, 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.
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