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Discrimination on the Grounds of Marital Status

Current legislation prevents employers from discriminating against employees on the grounds of their marital status. A recent case has now confirmed that the law protects an employee not just where that employee is married, but where he or she is married to a particular person.

Related cases

In Dunn v Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management, theEAT considered this issue. Mr and Mrs Dunn were employed by the same employer. Mr Dunn was in dispute with the Chief Executive. Mrs Dunn had been tasked with setting up a northern office for the business. When changes were proposed to her contract of employment, she raised a grievance which was rejected by her employer. Mrs Dunn subsequently went off sick and brought claims for sex discrimination and victimisation.

A week following receipt of Mrs Dunn's solicitor's letter setting out her complaints, her employer decided not to open a northern office and wrote to Mrs Dunn proposing to delete her post. Mrs Dunn subsequently resigned and argued that she was the victim of sex discrimination. She said that the real reason that the employer wanted to remove her job was because she was married to Mr Dunn.

The Employment Tribunal agreed that Mrs Dunn had been badly treated because she was married to a particular person (Mr Dunn) and there was evidence to suggest that there was an ongoing dispute between the Chief Executive and her husband. However, it held that this did not amount to discrimination on the grounds of her marital status. Mrs Dunn appealed this decision.

Mrs Dunn won her appeal. The EATheld that the law not only protected Mrs Dunn because of her marital status, but also because she was married specifically to Mr Dunn.This case is of particular relevance to family-run companies, where husbands and wives frequently work together. Family shareholdings, divorce proceedings and family fallouts may also add to the mix of a potentially expensive employment situation.

To read the full case, please click on the link below:

Contact us for help

As always Lupton Fawcett are on hand to offer advice, so please contact Louise Connacher on 0113 280 2108 or if you would like to discuss this further.

Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.

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