In Amnesty International v Ahmed the claimant, who was ethnic Sudanese, worked for Amnesty and applied for promotion to work on their Sudanese desk. She was not appointed because she was Sudanese. However, Amnesty's decision was taken for decent reasons - that she might not be perceived as being impartial in her activities and on health and safety grounds because her ethnic background might make her more at risk if she had to work out in Sudan on Amnesty's behalf.
After looking at all the authorities, the EAT confirmed that, even where the employer says it is acting in the best interests of the employee, the employer's motive is irrelevant. Amnesty's decision had been based on an unlawful ground (race or ethnic origin). It had subjected the claimant to direct race discrimination.
The EAT considered the ‘health and safety’ defence. As racial discrimination was outlawed under European law, it was not possible for the employer to say that domestic legislation (in this case, the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974) could override it.
Point to note -
- Although the claimant succeeded in her discrimination claim, the EAT rejected her claim that, as a result of the unlawful discrimination, she was entitled to resign and claim constructive dismissal. It said that there was a distinction to be drawn between a 'benevolent' breach of the discrimination laws and a breach of the implied obligation of trust and confidence that should exist between employer and employee. It could not possibly be said that, in these circumstances, Amnesty was in breach of that duty.