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Beware The Associative Discrimination Trap

Posted on Thursday 30th July 2015 by Neil Andrews

Employers are all too aware of the dangers of discrimination but there’s a subtle variation that can catch out even the most careful and enlightened bosses.Neil Andrews - Partner, Coles Miller

Employees can claim damages if you discriminate against them indirectly, and one of the forms of indirect discrimination is associative discrimination.

In a recent case, an employee successfully claimed discrimination by association because he was dismissed after saying he needed to spend more time caring for his disabled daughter.

Another case centred on a man who claimed associative discrimination because he was employed at an office where a female colleague was being sexually harassed. He said the harassment of his co-worker had a negative impact on him. He won his case.

Discrimination is an extremely worrying accusation for any employer because the compensation payments are uncapped.

Not only that – there is no qualifying period. An employee need not have worked a minimum length of time before being able to claim.

These two factors have made discrimination a popular option for aggrieved employees who have not accrued the necessary two years’ service required for an unfair dismissal claim.

And associative discrimination has become another weapon in their arsenal.

Those unable to claim direct discrimination against them may try to rustle up a claim of discrimination by proxy.

Associative discrimination is based on the same protected characteristics as cases of direct discrimination: age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion and belief; sex; sexual orientation.

A person does not even need to be an employee to claim – job applicants can take legal action if they believe a prospective future employer has discriminated against them.

That also applies with regard to associative discrimination.

Are you an employer worried about how best to comply with the rules? Facing a tribunal claim? Contact our employment law solicitors in Bournemouth and Poole.

For further information and expert legal advice, contact Coles Miller Partner, Neil Andrews, an employment law specialist.

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