Friday, December 11, 2009

It's Official: Race and Sex Discrimination Can Work Together

An interesting Employment Appeal Tribunal case has ruled that although workers have to submit claims of race and sex discrimination separately, Tribunals can consider their combined effects.

In Ministry of Defence v Debique, the EAT considered the case of a female single mother from St Vincent who had to resign from the army because she could not meet her employer's requirement that she be available to work 24/7. This was discriminatory on the grounds of sex because women are more likely to be single parents; and discriminatory on the grounds of race because commonwealth soldiers do not have the right that British national soldiers do, to have a relative live with them to help with childcare.

If the army had relaxed either the requirement to be available 24/7, or the bar on having a relative live with her to help with childcare, then there would not have been discrimination. Because it did neither, there was discrimination. Hence, the discriminations combined: she was discriminated against as a black woman.

It is my firm belief that lots of black women workers experience discrimination in which sexism and racism combine rather than simply co-existing. The extent to which this ruling will help other workers remains to be seen, but however small, it does appear to be a step forward.

If you are a union rep reading this, then you might well have a case in which this EAT ruling is useful to you.

Labels: , ,