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Workplace Discrimination against 'caste' - can you claim?

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Caste relates to the different social levels within certain cultures and racial groups throughout the world, and has been the subject of much argument and debate for many years.  However, employee discrimination by reason of caste is not currently explicitly prohibited.

So, is it possible for an employee to successfully claim they have been discriminated Text Box: The Equality Act 2010 introduced the term "protected characteristics" to refer to groups that are protected under the Act for reasons of, for example, age, disability, race, sexual orientation, religion or belief.  Each of these “umbrella” terms covers a number of different individual characteristics that are also covered by the Act.against due to their ‘caste’?

The UK Government recently undertook a consultation to review the anti-discrimination law in this area and to decide if ‘caste’ should be recognised as a “freestanding” protected characteristic. 

The Government decided against recognising caste discrimination as a freestanding protected characteristic, because it felt that the emerging case law was enough to provide the necessary protection against caste discrimination under the umbrella of racial discrimination, and therefore further legislation would not be required.

One of the cases that contributed to this decision was the recent case of Chandhok v Tirkey. Ms Tirkey was a migrant worker from India employed by Mr and Mrs Chandhok as a live-in domestic servant. She alleged that Mr and Mrs Chandhok had been mistreating her because she was from a lower caste.  Mr and Mrs Chandhok argued that caste was not a protected characteristic under the Equality Act so the claim should be dismissed.  Although caste is not a separate protected characteristic, the Court disagreed, and decided that it may form part of an individual’s ethnic origin and may, therefore, be protected under the umbrella of race discrimination.

So, an employee who feels they have been discriminated against due to their ‘caste’ can still bring a claim for discrimination at an employment tribunal relying on the protected characteristic of Race.

Talbots Law’s employment team are always on hand to discuss this and any other HR matter - for further information, please contact Sonia Gaddu or call us now on 0800 118 1500.