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Overstepping the Mark in Discrimination Cases – April 2011

Stephen Brookes reviews Evershed Legal Service Ltd v De Belin, a recent case heard on 6th April 2011 when the employer went too far in favouring an employee on maternity leave over a male employee at work.

In this case, heard in the Employment Appeal Tribunal, the employer had decided to make one of two solicitors redundant and it devised a scoring system to weigh up which solicitor should be retained. One solicitor ( a male) was at work and the other was on maternity leave. One of the criteria for deciding between them was the speed at which their clients paid their bills but because the female solicitor had been on maternity leave she was given a full score, whereas the male employee was not and he was dismissed on the ground of redundancy. He claimed unlawful discrimination and won in the Employment Tribunal. The employer appealed.

The Court decided that it would have been fair to consider the time taken by the clients to pay the bills if the time had been assessed just before the female employee went onto maternity leave but giving her a full score on this point over the male employee was going too far, was not required by the anti-discrimination legislation and amounted to unlawful discrimination against the male employee. The employer had overstepped the mark and in trying to prevent discrimination to a female employee had unwittingly discriminated against a male employee. Had the score been dealt with properly the female employee would have been dismissed and the male employee retained (at least, until the next redundancy round, when he too would have been dismissed!)

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