Teacher wins sex discrimination claim but loses over religion

A teacher at a Jewish nursery who was sacked after refusing to lie about cohabiting with her boyfriend was not subjected to religious discrimination.


However, the nursery's criticisms of her amounted to sex discrimination and harassment.


That was the decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal in a case involving the Gan Menachem Hendon Ltd nursery and Zelda de Groen.


Ms de Groen was a Jewish teacher employed at a nursery run by Gan Menachem under ultra-orthodox Hasidic principles. Following a work-related social event at which her boyfriend mentioned to staff that they lived together, she was summoned to a meeting at which she was asked to lie by confirming that she did not cohabit.


She was assured that such a reply would be enough to satisfy customers.


Ms de Groen was upset when the panel also expressed their views that co-habitation and/or having children outside marriage was wrong, that at the age of 23 time was passing for her to have children, and that if she had problems with the idea of marriage she should seek counselling.


She was subsequently dismissed at a disciplinary hearing held in her absence.


The tribunal concluded that the nursery had subjected her to direct discrimination and harassment on the grounds of sex and to both direct and indirect discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief.


The EAT upheld the harassment and sex discrimination ruling but overturned the finding relating to religion.


It said the Equality Act 2010 prohibited unfavourable treatment because of an employee’s belief, but that protection did not extend to less favourable treatment by an employer because of its own religion or belief, as in this case.


Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law.

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