Readers of our monthly Bulletins will be familiar with the issue of caste discrimination that was covered in April 2013 and most recently when we discussed the introduction of Anti-caste discrimination laws being delayed in Autumn 2013:-
By way of reminder, discrimination based on caste involves people being separated into different rankings/categories/classes within a particular religious, national or social grouping, with the lowest rankings or castes being treated as ‘subhuman’ or ‘untouchables’.
Whilst a final draft Order is not set to be introduced until the summer of 2015 at the earliest, which will have the effect of specifically protecting caste discrimination, a recent Employment Tribunal dealt with the issue with a somewhat unsurprising outcome.
Whilst caste is not one of the Protected Characteristics that is covered by the Equality Act 2010, the Protected Characteristic of race covers nationality, colour and ethnic or national origin.
In Tirkey v Chandock, a servant that lived at her employer’s address, claimed caste discrimination after she was subjected to unfair and degrading treatment, on the basis that she was only treated the way she was as the employer considered her to be in a lower status than they were themselves.
The Employment Tribunal found that the Claimant could proceed with the claim of caste discrimination, on the basis that caste is already covered by the Equality Act and the provisions on direct race discrimination.
Whilst the case is beneficial in establishing that caste based arguments can potentially succeed under the Equality Act as currently drafted, even before the Government legislates to specifically make reference to caste discrimination, the case does not sit consistently with previous cases that refused to recognise this type of discrimination at a time before the Government had specifically legislated in this respect.
It therefore remains to be seen how further cases would be dealt with, prior to the Government potentially taking action in this arena in 2015.