Caste Discrimination

09 Jan 2015

Caste discrimination made a brief appearance in the employment firmament last year. It’s just cropped up again in the EAT. This is to get my tuppence worth in before Jeremy Vine and the rest of the media cohort seize the wrong end of the stick again (see my recent post about obesity) – assuming of course they can tear themselves away from the unfolding tragedy in France.

The EAT has not, repeat not, said that caste discrimination is recognised under UK law. It has very clearly (and in my view correctly) said that caste is not a protected characteristic under the Equality Act. However the President of the EAT did say that elements of an individuals identity as a member of a particular caste (in this case the claimant was an Adivasi) could form part of her ethnic identity; adding of course that it’s all a question of fact to be determined on a case by case basis. It’s well settled that ethnicity may be a protected characteristic in the context of racial discrimination. So, just as with the CJEU’s decision on obesity there’s nothing new here so far as UK law is concerned.

Arguably the most interesting aspect of the decision is that the President of the Tribunal resorted to Wikipedia for assistance in understanding the definition of caste; that’s a new authority on me!