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Corporate Entities Can Bring Discrimination Claims

15 February 2016

Garry Abrams was a member of EAD Solicitors LLP (a limited liability partnership). In 2011 Mr Abrams retired as a member of EAD and was replaced by Garry Abrams Ltd. This arrangement had been recommended to Mr Abrams by his accountants.

At the end of the financial year in which Mr Abrams turned 62 years of age, EAD ceased paying Garry Abrams Ltd its profit share. Garry Abrams Ltd subsequently brought an Employment Tribunal claim against EAD alleging direct age discrimination. EAD sought to have the claim struck out on the basis that a company could not pursue such a claim as it was not protected under the Equality Act 2010.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal held that companies can bring claims for discrimination. It rejected EAD’s argument that a company is unable to pursue a discrimination claim because it cannot have a protected characteristic, here ‘age’. The EAT held that it does not matter that a corporate entity does not possess the protected characteristic in question. The judge observed that “the Equality Act does not deal with individuals on the basis of their protected characteristics but identifies discrimination as being detrimental treatment caused by the protected characteristic or related to it. Detrimental treatment can be given to any person, whether that person is natural or legal. There is no reason to restrict the class of those who can suffer a detriment if what is being complained of, and that which the statute seeks to avoid, is a detriment being suffered because of an individual’s protected characteristic.”

This is a ground-breaking decision and is likely to have significant implications for companies, LLPs, charities and other legal entities.