Thursday 25 May 2006

BNP/Racial Discrimination

The Court of Appeal has, this morning, overturned the EAT's controversial decision in Redfearn v Serco.

Serco dismissed Mr Redfearn, a BNP local councillor, following complains by the union that its (predominantly Asian) members objected to working with him. It was common ground that, whilst he was an active member of a political party with unpleasant racial views, those views had not affected the way he conducted himself at work. However, Serco was concerned (following some bad publicity) that employees and clients would be worried about them employing an active BNP local councillor.

Mr Redfearn, who lacked the qualifying period to claim unfair dismissal, brought a claim of race discrimination.

Overturning the EAT, the Court of Appeal held that his complaint did not fall within the Race Relations Act 1976. It was wrong to say that he had been dismissed 'on racial grounds', simply because race issues had been in the employer's mind when deciding to dismiss, and that the decision could be said to be referable to race.

To the contrary, Mummery LJ held that to allow Mr Redfearn's claim of direct discrimination to succeed would "cover cases that would produce consequences at odds with the legislative aim" and "turn...the policy of race relations legislation upside down... Mr Redfearn was no more dismissed 'on racial grounds' than an employee who is dismissed for racially abusing his employer, a fellow employee or a valued customer."

Mr Redfearn's case of race discrimination accordingly fails.

[Thanks to Nick Thomas of Pinsent Masons for telling me about this decision]

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