Is caste protected under the Equality Act?
Sometimes, held the EAT in Chandhok v Tirkey - but only where caste is part of a protected characteristic, usually ethnic origin.
Ms Tirkey was a migrant worker from India employed by Mr and Mrs Chandhok as a nanny. She alleged that she had been mistreated by them, in part, because she was from a lower caste.
Mr and Mrs Chandhok argued that this aspect of her claim should be struck out because caste was not a protected characteristic under the Equality Act.
The EAT, upholding the employment tribunal's decision, disagreed. Caste is not a freestanding protected characteristic. But elements of caste identity may form part of an individual's ethnic origin, particularly where caste is determined by descent or contains an identifiable ethnic identity. Therefore caste discrimination may be protected as a form of race discrimination. These factual matters are ones for the employment tribunal deciding any individual case.
Practitioners will also be interested in President's Langstaff's remarks on the importance of employment tribunal's resolving the pleaded case in the ET1 & ET3 - and not allowing themselves to be diverted into deciding allegations that are only put forward in other documents, such as witness statements (see paragraphs 16-18).