Friday, December 06, 2013

Britain's Court of Appeal Says Religious Discrimination Can Involve Failure To Accommodate Belief Held By Only Some Christians

In Mba v. Mayor and Burgesses of the London Borough of Merton, (EWCA, Dec. 5, 2013), Britain's Court of Appeal held that under the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003, indirect religious discrimination (i.e. discrimination based on disparate impact of a work rule) can be shown even when the religious belief impacted is held only by some of the members of a religious group.  However it concluded that the Employment Tribunal below, while proceeding in part on an erroneous view of the law, still reached the correct result in rejecting the employee's discrimination claim.

At issue was a claim by a Christian care assistant at a municipally operated children's home that the Borough had failed to adequately accommodate her religious belief that she should not work on Sundays. Under the Equality Regulations, a defense to the indirect discrimination claim is a showing that the work rule was "a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim." The Court held that the Employment Tribunal below, in assessing proportionality, had incorrectly considered it relevant that abstaining from work on Sunday is not a core component of the more general Christian faith.  The 3 judges disagreed on the extent to which provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights should impact their interpretation of British regulation at issue. They all agreed that other factors made the refusal to accommodate a proportionate response. UK Human Rights Blog and Christian Concern both report on the case. [Thanks to Alliance Alert for the lead.]