There are not many claims brought on the grounds of marital status discrimination, and the decision in Ellis v Bacon at an Employment Appeal Tribunal may well highlight why.
The EAT was asked to consider whether it was necessary to prove that being married, rather than in a close relationship, was the reason for unfavourable treatment.
The EAT found that this was a necessary element. In other words the unfavourable treatment needed to be on the grounds of the marital status, not simply because the two people were in a close relationship, say of unmarried partners.
The facts of the case concerned a Ms. Bacon who was married to Mr. Bacon, the majority shareholder in the company. Ms. Bacon was herself a director in the company.
During difficult divorce proceedings, Ms. Bacon was subjected to various detriments and then dismissed by the Managing Director, such treatment on the instruction of Mr. Bacon.
At the initial Employment Tribunal, Ms. Bacon’s claim for marital status discrimination was upheld. The ET ruled that Ms. Bacon was dismissed because she was married to Mr. Bacon.
The decision was appealed. The EAT overturned the decision.
The EAT pointed out that the question was not whether the Claimant was treated badly because she was married to the majority shareholder, but whether someone who was not married to the majority shareholder, but was in a similarly close relationship that had broken down, would have been treated any differently.
In other words, was it the marriage that resulted in the poor treatment and dismissal, or would the breakdown in any close relationship also have resulted in the poor treatment?
Establishing that marital status was the pivotal factor is key in a marital discrimination claim.
06 February, 2023
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