Direct discrimination is probably the most recognisable form of discrimination in the workplace. An employer directly discriminates against a person if:
- They treat a person less favourably than they treat others or would treat others, and
- The difference in treatment is because of a protected characteristic.
The protected characteristics are; age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.
As such, it is not enough that an employee feels that they have been treated unfairly. They must be able to show with reference to a comparator (real or hypothetical) that they have been treated less favourably and that the reason for the treatment is the protected characteristic. Importantly it does not have to be the employee's own protected characteristic but can be due to the protected characteristic of another person (for example, a disabled child or elderly parent).
A claim for direct discrimination can be extremely damaging to an employer. Not only can a Tribunal order that the employer pay the employee potentially unlimited compensation, but the reputational damage can also be huge should the claim become public knowledge.
If you are an employer facing an allegation of direct discrimination please contact Nockolds' Employment Law Team on 01279 755777 or get in touch with Gary Smith, Partner in our Employment Team.