No unlawful discrimination without detriment

Posted: 9th November 2015

GoldfishThe Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has ruled that a finding of discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 can only be made where a worker has suffered an actual detriment by reason of less favourable treatment on the grounds of a protected characteristic.

A security guard of Indian ethnic origin was sent home and investigated following an allegation that he smelt of alcohol at work. He later fabricated a false accusation that his white supervisor had used racially abusive language towards him.

An Employment Tribunal (ET) found that, despite the falsity of the complaint, the employer’s failure to investigate the matter constituted less favourable treatment on grounds of the worker’s race. He was refused compensation, on the basis that he had suffered no injury to his feelings, but the ET nevertheless declared that his employer had directly discriminated against him on grounds of his race.

In allowing the employer's appeal and overturning the declaration, the EAT ruled that a finding of discrimination under the Act required proof of both less favourable treatment and substantive detriment. The failure to investigate the entirely fabricated complaint had not caused the worker any sense of grievance or injustice.