Employment Appeals Tribunal considers if dismissing a teacher at an ultra-orthodox Jewish nursery who refused to lie about living with her boyfriend is discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief

Ben Spence

Ms De Groen was employed as a teacher in a Jewish nursery. The nursery was run by Gan Menachem Hendon Ltd in accordance with ultra-orthodox Chabad principles. At a barbeque where parents were present, the teacher’s boyfriend revealed that they lived together which was against the beliefs of ultra-orthodox Jews.

The teacher was dismissed after it had become known that she was living with her boyfriend. At a meeting with the headteacher and the managing director, the teacher was told that her private life was of no concern to the nursery, but it did risk damaging the reputation of the nursery. The teacher was asked to confirm that she no longer lived with her boyfriend so that the nursery could tell any concerned parents. The teacher refused to lie and wanted an apology leading to her dismissal.

At the original hearing heard by the Employment Tribunal the teacher won her claims of discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief and sex. The EAT upheld the claims of sex discrimination on appeal. But it found that the Tribunal had made an error in their conclusion that direct discrimination could arise from the employer acting because of its own religion or beliefs. Any direct discrimination claim based on the discriminator’s own protected characteristic would fail because they would treat and act towards everyone in the same way because of their own belief. There would be no different treatment with any comparator. The nursery acted in the way it did because of the teacher’s non-compliance with those beliefs.

Ben Spence – HR Business Partner

Ben Spence

I am a confident and commercial MCIPD qualified HR Professional with over 15 years’ experience in Human Resources. Prior to joining Cook Lawyers I spent 3 years at Wigan and Leigh College as a HR Business Partner and 4 years providing a HR Service to Schools in Lancashire and Wigan through the local authority. I have a real passion to ensure employment issues are managed effectively and in a timely manner.