Is a company able to bring a claim for discrimination under the Equality Act 2010?

Yes, held the Employment Appeal Tribunal in EAD Solicitors LLP and others v Abrams. This case potentially means that a range of “legal persons” may be able to bring discrimination claims, such as companies and partnerships, in addition to individuals.  

Facts 

Mr Abrams was originally a member of EAD Solicitors LLP.  However, in 2011 he set up a limited company, of which he was the sole director and shareholder, to take his place as a member of the LLP and his share of the profits was paid to his company instead.

Under the terms of the partnership agreements members were due to retire at 62.  When Mr Abrams turned 62 in 2014 EAD Solicitors LLP stopped distributing the share of profits to Mr Abrams’ company. 

Mr Abrams’ company brought tribunal proceedings against EAD Solicitors LLP for associative discrimination on the grounds of Mr Abrams’ age. The company’s claim was that it had suffered a detriment because Mr Abrams had turned 62.

The preliminary issue was whether or not a limited company is entitled to bring a claim for discrimination.  

Decision

At a Preliminary Hearing the Employment Tribunal held that a company is able to bring a discrimination claim.  The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) upheld the tribunal judge’s decision.

The EAT rejected the argument that, because only an individual could have a protected characteristic, only an individual could bring a claim for discrimination under the Equality Act.   It held that a “person” may bring a claim under the Equality Act and that a “person” may include a body corporate and there is nothing in the wording of the Equality Act that precluded this approach.  Further, the EAT held that the “person” suffering the detriment is not required to have the protected characteristic but must simply suffer the detriment because of a protected characteristic, which another person may have.

Comment 

This case may have relatively limited application in relation to employment law but is particularly significant in relation to discrimination cases involving the supply of goods and services.  This case confirms that a company, LLP, charity, educational establishment, or other non-natural person may sue if it receives detrimental treatment based on the protected characteristics of individuals associated with it (whether they be its members, directors, employees, customers, pupils or otherwise).  Indeed the EAT gave examples where a company may bring a discrimination claim, including where a company is shunned commercially because it employs an ethnic minority workforce or where a company receives negative treatment because it supports Islamic education. 

Search our site