In his decision in the recent case of Edozie v Group 4 Securicor plc the President of the Employment Appeal Tribunal has taken the opportunity to say that there is really only one test that any discrimination claim has to pass before it can succeed.

There had been some doubt about this because some claims were not expressly covered by the relevant statute when the test was brought into line with the relevant European Directive. One such claim was a Race Relations Act claim based on colour, rather than ethnic or national origin. Mr Edozie’s claim failed at the employment tribunal and he suggested on appeal that it was because the tribunal had applied the wrong burden of proof - his claim was based on the fact that he was black.

The EAT disagrees - when deciding such a claim, instead of concerning itself with the wording of the legislation, the tribunal should consider the same facts and produce the same result, applying the Igen v Wong test, as in any other discrimination claim

Points to note –

  • The Igen v Wong test is a two-part test. First the claimant must show facts from which it could be inferred that there had been unlawful discrimination. The burden of proof then passes to the respondent to show a non-discriminatory reason for the treatment complained of. If the respondent is unable to do so, the claim will succeed.
  • This decision is a welcome victory for common sense in the interpretation of discrimination law but nothing stays still for long in this area of the law. The Equality Bill is on its way through parliament and both Harriet Harman, Minister for Women and Equality, and Trevor Phillips, head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, are on record as saying that they expect it to become law before the general election, whenever that may be, and to come into effect in the autumn of 2010.