Monday, July 14, 2008

More on the Employment Tribunal.

The commentaries on the Central London Employment Tribunal's decision that a Christian registrar had been discriminated against by Islington Council, has been depressing reading. Yesterday, The Observer, for example, published this editorial in which they confuse, in my opinion, the issues. I have already criticised the decision of the tribunal, because it failed to consider fully the rights of the Council as an employer, but on the evidence and arguments presented before it, the tribunal made some good points.

The tribunal only found in favour of the registrar because the Council offered no other reason for their actions than the need to protect the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) community, and this community's rights were held not to have been impeded by Ms Ladale being excused from performing civil partnership ceremonies. In paragraph 87 of the judgment, the tribunal states: " We heard evidence that there was no dimution in service offered by reason of Ms Ladele not being undertaking civil partnership duties." This statement indicates that had the service offered by the Council in any way been limited by an accommodation to Ms Ladele's convictions, then the tribunal would not have upheld the her right not to be discriminated against on grounds of religion.

Also, this case was, as all cases are, decided on its specific facts. Ms Ladale had been a registrar since 1992, and until 2007 had been an office holder, and not and employee of the Council. In December 2007, when her status was changed due to the provisions of the Statistics and Registration Act 2007, the Council implemented a policy requiring Ms Ladale to perform civil partnerships ceremonies. It is likely that the tribunal would have looked differently on the Council's policy, if Ms Ladale had not been a registrar prior to 2007 and had always been an employee of the Council. This tribunal's decision should therefore not be seen as supporting a general the right of employees to refuse the performance of tasks on the basis of conscience and belief.

I wish those commenting on the case would not draw exaggerated conclusions. This case is significant, not because it involves the civil rights of the LGBT community, but because it shows that employment tribunals will not accept discrimination that is only justified in the abstract and not in fact.


Post a Comment

<< Home