As he approached retirement, the claimant in EAD Solicitors v Abrams, who was a solicitor and member of a limited liability partnership, set up a limited company. He was the sole director. The idea was that the limited company took his place as a member of the LLP, receiving the profit share he would have taken had he continued as a member, with the company supplying his services as a fee-earner to the LLP.
When the LLP objected to the claimant offering services after the time at which he would normally have retired, the issue was whether the company could bring a claim of age discrimination against the LLP, on the basis that it had suffered detrimental treatment because of the protected characteristic of someone with whom it was associated (the claimant). The Tribunal decided it could and the EAT has now upheld that decision.
The fact that only an individual can have a protected characteristic is irrelevant – detrimental treatment can be given to a "legal person" such as a company in the same way as to an individual and provided the discrimination complained of is linked to the protected characteristic of an individual, a claim can be brought.
This is the third in a line of recent cases showing the breadth of the concept of associative discrimination. Last week we reported on Thompson v London Central Bus Company, where discrimination by association was applied to victimisation, and a few weeks ago the European Court decided that it could in theory apply to indirect discrimination.