Employment Appeal Tribunal decision holds that “caste” can fall within Equality Act 201009 Jan 2015
In the recent Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) decision of Chandhok and Another v Tirkey UKEAT/0190/14, it was held that a person’s caste could fall within the Equality Act’s definition of “race” and therefore a person could be protected from discrimination by reason of their caste.
As the law currently stands, caste is not a protected characteristic under the Equality Act; however, the government has undertaken a public consultation and plans are underway to introduce caste as a protected characteristic in the summer of 2015. The definition of race in the Equality Act includes “colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin”. In this case, it was decided that ethnic or national origin was a broad enough term to encompass caste.
In this case, the Claimant was a woman whose caste was described as Adivasi, which is recognised as the lowest point of almost every socio-economic indicator. The Claimant claimed that her employers had treated her badly and in a demeaning manner, in part, because of her caste. The employer sought to strike out the part of her claim related to discrimination by reason of her caste on the basis that caste is not a protected characteristic under the Equality Act.
In the first instance, the Employment Tribunal rejected this strike out application. The EAT upheld this decision and dismissed the appeal, allowing the caste discrimination claim to proceed to a full hearing in the Employment Tribunal.
This decision is important as it means that Claimants may be able to bring claims for caste discrimination before the government introduces the relevant legislation. However, this decision does not mean caste is now a protected characteristic; whether a claim based on caste can succeed will depend on the facts of the case and whether the characteristics determined by the Claimant’s descent can fall within the definition of “ethnic or national origin”.
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