Can a limited company claim discrimination? You may be surprised
Posted on 28th September 2015 at 10:41
At first sight, it would be all too easy to react to today’s Employment Appeal Tribunal finding in EAD Solicitors LLP & others v Abrams, namely that a limited company can claim discrimination, by asking out loud how a limited company can suffer hurt feelings and whether the law is determined to prove itself an ass once more.
But there is more to it. The decision is well reasoned under the Equality Act.
In this case, the allegation was of age discrimination, and the limited company was the personal service company of the other claimant Mr Abrams. The company provided Mr Abrams’ services to the LLP, and took his profit share on his behalf. Matters turned sour when the LLP sought to terminate the company’s membership once Mr Abrams’ notional retirement date had been reached.
So how did the limited company win through? As the EAT concluded, the Equality Act does not deal with individuals on the basis of their protected characteristics (race, sex, age etc), but identifies discrimination as treatment caused by or related to a protected characteristic. The focus is subtly different from what might be assumed. So on the special facts of this case, where the discriminatory act was still linked to Mr Abrams’ age, there was said to be no reason to fear the opening of the floodgates.
The closing comments of Langstaff J are, however, worthy of note. What if a company is shunned commercially because its workforce is primarily composed of protected minorities, or because it offered financial support for the Conservative party or Islamic education, or had an openly gay chief executive? These examples were offered as ways in which a person or persons may suffer because of treatment condemned by public policy. Only time will tell how far this may develop.
Tagged as: Solicitor
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