4 February 2019

International Cases

Patrick Breslin v. Margaret Loughrey




Discrimination on grounds of religious belief and political opinion is unlawful

The claimant was employed by the Respondent on a regular but not formal basis from March 2016 until 16 May 2016, on which latter date he signed a contract of employment. His employment ended on or about 24 June 2016, that is, some five weeks after his contract of employment was signed. The issues for the Tribunal to determine were whether or not the claimant was unfairly dismissed by the Respondent; and whether or not the Respondent discriminated against the claimant on the ground of sex and/or religion.

The claimant is, and was known by the respondent to be, devoted to his Roman Catholic faith. As such, he attended mass every day, and he had a number of religious statues in the house. The Respondent confirmed that she had bought one of the statues for him. She also gave evidence that she had been born into the Roman Catholic faith, but that she no longer practised it, and that she had in fact "divorced the Pope".

The claimant gave evidence that the Respondent complained because he was "always running to mass", and that he would have to choose between her and God. The respondent in evidence put this down to "a bit of banter" between friends. The claimant also gave evidence that the Respondent constantly berated him because he was male, saying that she bitterly disliked men, and that "all men are bastards". The Respondent denied ever making any such comments. The claimant stated that, Respondent had dismissed him, without explanation.

Discrimination on grounds of sex is rendered unlawful by virtue of Article 3 of the Sex Discrimination (Northern Ireland Order) 1976 (SDO) which provides that, "In any circumstances relevant for the purposes of any provision of this Order, a person ("A") discriminates against another ("B") if, on the ground of sex, A treats B less favourably than A treats or would treat another person." Discrimination on grounds of religious belief and political opinion is similarly rendered unlawful, by virtue of the provisions of the Fair Employment and Treatment (Northern Ireland) Order 1998, as amended ("FETO").

The burden is on the claimant to prove facts from which the Tribunal could conclude that they suffered such unwanted conduct on grounds of religion, which had the required purpose or effect. If the claimant proves such facts the burden shifts to the respondent to prove that the treatment was not related to religion or that it did not have the alleged purpose or effect. The Tribunal considered that, the evidence adduced by the claimant was much more credibly supportive of his complaints than that of the respondent, who did little to dispute that the incidents had occurred as described by the claimant. The Tribunal unanimously concluded that the individual acts regarding the religious statues were, in the absence of a credible explanation, unmistakably associated with the claimant's religious beliefs. The Respondent's explanation that, it was all done as a joke between friends, and with the willing participation of the claimant, did not bear close scrutiny.

The Tribunal found the claimant to be a steady and reliable witness. His evidence was credible, consistent and straightforward, and was supported by the objective evidence of the photographs and text messages. The Tribunal also accepted that the journal entries were more likely than not to have been written by him at the relevant time, and not manufactured for the Tribunal case. The Tribunal accepted the claimant's evidence that he was genuinely and deeply offended, and concluded that he was reasonable in being so. Not only had his privacy been breached, but his employer also openly mocked his religion, to him and to the colleagues she brought with her in to his home. She desecrated his religious statues, and, in her role as employer, instructed two of his colleagues to be actively complicit in it.

In those circumstances, the Tribunal concluded that, there was no need for a comparator, as the Tribunal was satisfied that the Respondent's conduct as his employer towards the claimant was on the ground of the relevant protected characteristic, namely, the claimant's religion. Such conduct therefore was direct discrimination on the ground of religion.

The Tribunal is unanimously satisfied that, the Respondent directly discriminated against the claimant on the grounds of his religion and his sex. The Tribunal concludes that, her treatment of him in dismissing him flowed from and was inextricably linked to both protected characteristics, and was simply an extension of her less favourable treatment of him. As such, his dismissal, whilst not unfair for the purposes of the 1996 Order, was a detriment for the purposes of the relevant discrimination legislation. The Respondent discriminated against the Claimant on the ground of sex and on the ground of religion. The Respondent is ordered to pay to the claimant the sum of £30,000 for injury to feelings.

Tags : Discrimination Termination Compensation

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