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Caste no shadow: Caste discrimination is covered by Equality Act 2010

Are employers at risk of an Employment Tribunal (ET) claim due to caste discrimination? A judgment by the ET has recently been upheld by the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT), holding that claims of race discrimination based on caste can be made under the Equality Act 2010, despite the fact that the Act does not currently expressly prohibit caste discrimination.

Chandok and Another v Tirkey

Mr and Mrs Chandok employed Ms Tirkey as a domestic worker for four years. Ms Tirkey belongs to the Adivasi people, who are perceived to be a “servant caste” in India.

Ms Tirkey claimed to have been underpaid and mistreated because of her caste and religion (she is Christian and the Chandoks are Hindu), however the couple applied to have the caste discrimination claim struck out on the basis that caste is not included as a protected characteristic of race in the Equality Act 2010.

The ET rejected the Chandoks’ application in January 2014 on the grounds that caste can be included in the term “ethnic origins” in Section 9 of the Act. In December 2014 the EAT rejected an appeal by the Chandoks against this decision http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKEAT/2014/0190_14_1912.html.

Interestingly, this contradicts a case from 2011, Naveen v Aslam, in which the ET held that caste was not covered under the Equality Act 2010. An amendment to the Act is set to be drafted in 2015 which will include caste as an aspect of race.

What does this mean in practice?

Whilst the Equality Act 2010 will be amended to expressly prohibit caste discrimination; this case shows us that caste can already be covered under the Act as an aspect of race. As an employee, this means you can be protected from caste discrimination under the Act in the same way you are protected from discrimination based on your race, religion, sexuality etc. As an employer, you will need to be aware that mistreatment and/or dismissal based on caste can be grounds for a discrimination claim.

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Paul Kelly

Partner and Head of Employment
Employment Law
PKelly@LawBlacks.com
0113 227 9249
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Paul Kelly Blacks Solicitors LLP