Recently, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) heard the case of Chandhok and another v Tirkey and considered whether to allow a claim for caste discrimination brought under the existing race discrimination provisions of the Equality Act 2010 (EA 2010).

Ms Tirkey was a migrant worker from India employed by the Chandhoks as a domestic worker. She claimed that she had been treated badly by them and this was partly due to the fact that she was from a lower caste.

Ms Tirkey had brought other claims against the Chandhoks in the Tribunal and sought to include her claim for caste discrimination as part of her race and religious discrimination claim.

The Chandhoks applied to strike out this aspect of her claim on the ground that “caste” did not fall within the definition of “race” in the EA 2010.

The EAT dismissed the appeal and permitted the caste discrimination claim to proceed to a full hearing in the Employment Tribunal. It was held that Ms Tirkey could bring a claim for caste discrimination under the law as it currently stands. Despite caste not yet separately being mentioned in the EA 2010, it was deemed to fall under the “ethnic or national origins” limb of “race” under the EA 2010.

It was also noted that although caste is not a freestanding protected characteristic, as elements of caste identity may form part of an individual’s ethnic origin, caste discrimination may be protected as a form of race discrimination. However these factual matters are to be dealt with subjectively by the Employment Tribunal deciding any individual case.

Until the EA 2010 is formally amended, employers should be aware of this case and amend their policies and procedures that are currently in place in order to cover this wider interpretation of “race” in order to prevent the possibility of any potential claims being made.

If you would like assistance with updating your company’s policies or procedures, then please give us a call on 0116 289 7000.

Bhavika Mistry, Trainee Solicitor

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