In the recent decision of Trayhorn v. The Secretary of State for Justice the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) held that a prison had not indirectly discriminated against a chaplain who was disciplined for quoting Bible passages condemning homosexuality.

Mr Trayhorn was a Pentecostal Christian, and an ordained minister. As well as his role as a gardener at HM Prison Littlehey, he volunteered to help with services in the prison chapel. On a couple of occasions he referenced homosexuality as a sin, quoting from a Bible passage to a congregation of prisoners at a prison housing sex offenders. After a final written warning he resigned and claimed unfair constructive dismissal and discrimination on the grounds of religion.

Mr Trayhorn sought to prove that the application of two policies (a conduct policy and an equality policy) by the prison service amounted to a Provision, Criterion or Practice (PCP) which put Christian employees at a particular disadvantage. He was unsuccessful and appealed to the EAT.

The EAT upheld the Employment Tribunal’s decision. It held that to establish indirect discrimination, section 19 of the Equality Act 2010 requires a claimant to demonstrate a group disadvantage. The EAT held that Mr Trayhorn, as a Christian, was not disadvantaged by the conduct and equality policies, nor were other Christians, whether “singly or as a group”. The EAT dismissed the appeal.

This confirms that claimants will continue to need to establish group disadvantage in indirect religion or belief discrimination cases. Employers defending such claims should remain alert to this requirement and draft and argue their defence of claims in view of this.