The London Borough of Islington was found to have discriminated against a registrar when it subjected her to disciplinary proceedings because she refused to conduct civil partnership ceremonies. The claimant is an orthodox Christian and believes that marriage should only be between a man and a woman. When the Civil Partnership Act 2004 came into force in December 2005, the claimant felt that she was placed in a difficult position with regards to her job as a registrar with the council.

The claimant informed her employer about her difficulty with civil partnerships and she informally swapped with other colleagues whenever she was scheduled to officiate at such a ceremony or registration. Some of the claimant’s colleagues objected to this. As a result the council informed her that she had potentially breached the council’s Code of Conduct and Dignity for All policy. The claimant rejected an offer of a compromise whereby she would not be called on to officiate at ceremonies but only at registrations. As a result the Council commenced disciplinary proceedings against her. The claimant then went on to make a formal complaint that the council had directly and indirectly discriminated against her, as well as harassed her on the grounds of her religion and beliefs.

The tribunal stated that as there was a direct conflict between anti-discrimination legislation it was necessary for the council as an employer to balance these competing rights.

In relation to the direct discrimination, the tribunal found that the council had only taken into account the rights of the gay community and not of the claimant’s rights as a Christian. In addition the tribunal found that the council had breached the claimant’s confidentiality by informing certain colleagues who had complained about her what action they proposed to take in relation to her, and had unilaterally varied her terms and conditions by requiring her to officiate at civil partnership ceremonies/ registrations. There had therefore been direct discrimination.

In the view of the tribunal the practice of requiring all registrars to undertake civil partnership duties was indirect discrimination and the disciplinary proceedings amounted to harassment.

Ladele v London Borough of Islington