A couple of employment law bloggers have written about the case of Lillian Ladele, the registrar who won her case religious discrimination claim against Islington council (see previous post). Both reckon the tribunal judgement was flawed.
Carl Gardner, a barrister and former government adviser, says that the judgement was wrong on all three counts. Islington, he argues, did not directly discriminate against Miss Ladele. Furthermore, he continues, any indirect discrimination would be justified on the grounds of the requirements of the job:
Giving a fair and equal service to the public and ensuring the availability of registrars must be an eminently justifiable reason for requiring registrars to work on civil partnerships. The Tribunal’s refusal to take Islington’s approach seriously risks giving religious minorities extreme, unwarranted protection as employees – to the extent that pursuing a secularist approach to public service provision is unlawful.
He also doesn’t buy the harassment claim:
As for the Tribunal’s findings on harassment, I think they’re shocking to be frank. I don’t think the Tribunal properly addresses the question whether the so-called harassment (which at least in part consisted simply in the council’s applying what it genuinely considered – and I think for good reason – a non-discriminatory and secularist policy) was on grounds of religion. And it deals in the most cursory, question-begging way with the question whether what Islington did created an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.
Usefully Employed, in a more detailed demolition of the tribunal’s judgement, draws similar conclusions.
Both lawyers expect the case to go to the Employment Appeal Tribunal.
I have been doing a bit of digging on the Employment Equality Regulations. It appears that the wording on harassment in both acts came from this EU directive (see Article 2 Paragraph 3).
Now I don’t want to sound like one of those nutters who thinks the EU is the source of all evil but we do seem to have been lumbered with legislation which is almost certain to create conflicts between competing groups in the workplace. When it comes to creating an intimidating or offensive environment, gay people and religious conservatives could almost claim that the simple presence of the other creates such an environment. The same could also be said of competing religions.
As I have said before, I think we are going to see a lot more cases like this but I would be interested to know what the effect of the legislation arising from this directive has been in other EU countries. Have similar cases come up elsewhere? Answers in the usual place, please.