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Legal Updates

Marital Discrimination

06 December 2011 #Employment

The EAT held in Dunn v Insititute of Cemetry and Crematorium Management that where an employer treats a married person less favourably because of whom they are married to, this can amount to unlawful discrimination.

Mrs Dunn was employed as a technical services manager and following a dispute over her employment terms she resigned and claimed constructive unfair dismissal. She believed that she was singled out for a lower rate of sick pay than anyone else in her circumstance.

In addition, she contended that the less favourable treatment she received was in breach of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 because she was married to Mr Dunn. She was an adjunct to him. Mr Dunn worked for the employer at the time with whom the employer was also in dispute.

Although the Respondent did not discriminate against married people generally, the EAT held that Mrs Dunn was entitled to claim that her unfavourable treatment was marriage-specific and specific to that marriage.

According to the EAT, reviewing the authorities, including Chief Constable of the Bedfordshire Constabulary v Graham [2002] IRLR 239, section 3 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (see Equality Act 2010, s. 8) could be construed as protecting the claimant by reason of her status, not only of being married, but also of being married to her husband. The 1976 Equal Treatment Directive was not of assistance in interpretation.  The Claimant’s ECHR rights under Arts 8, 12 and 14 were engaged.

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