The EHRC has significant powers to become involved in legal cases that are within the areas of Equality and Human Rights. These powers are set out fully in the Equality Act 2006
Examples of these legal cases are given below.
A v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
The Court of Appeal ruled that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions acted unlawfully by failing to exempt victims of domestic violence living in safe-houses from the spare room subsidy. The court found that the impact of the spare room subsidy on those housed under Sanctuary Schemes is discriminatory and is unjustified
Moorthy v HMRC
The Upper Tribunal upheld the findings of the First Tier Tax Tribunal that compensation awards for injury to feelings in discrimination claims that relate to the termination of employment are taxable. This decision has clarified the law as prior to this there were conflicting case authorities on the taxable treatment of compensation awards.
Judgement: Moorthy v HMRC
Hurley and ors v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (EHRC Intervener)
The High Court ruled that the Secretary of State unjustifiably indirectly discriminated against unpaid carers for disabled family members by failing to exempt them from the Benefits Cap. The Court upheld the Commission’s submission that carers’ Article 14 rights under the European Convention on Human Rights had been contravened by not considering the impact on disabled people.
Howe v JD Wetherspoon
The High Court found that the J D Wetherspoons pub chain discriminated against travellers. A group who had been attending the Irish Traveller Movement in Britain annual conference, some of whom are Irish Travellers, were refused entry into a public house.
Judgment: Howe v JD Wetherspoon
Akerman-Livingstone v Aster Communities (EHRC intervener)
The Supreme Court found that the Court of Appeal had been wrong to hold that, in relation to a claim for possession of residential premises, a court should take the same approach to a defence raising an argument of unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 Act as to a defence based on Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The outcome maintains the distinction in the burden of proof that applies to the respective defences.
See related article: Eviction actions: the importance of considering discrimination
Mr and Mrs Chandhok v Ms P Tirkey (Equality and Human Rights Commission intervening)
In this case, the Claimant supplemented her claim of direct race discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 by arguing that her caste was a factor in the way she was perceived by the Respondents.
R (J) v Worcestershire County Council (EHRC intervener)
This is an important judgment confirming the powers given to local authorities to assist children in need inside and outside of their areas. The decision will help to ensure that assessments by local authorities of children’s needs for services take account of cultural factors affecting Gypsies and Travellers. The case has the potential to assist the many children in need who move between areas for whatever reason – not just children from Gypsy and Traveller communities.
R (Winder and ors) v Sandwell Borough Council (EHRC intervener)
The local authority’s two-year residency requirement for council tax reduction unlawfully indirectly discriminates against women fleeing domestic violence. The Council was in breach of the public sector equality duty.
R (Tracey) v Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Secretary of State for Health (EHRC intervener)
Whilst in hospital. Mrs Tracey had a Do Not Attempt Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (DNACPR) notice placed on her notes without her knowledge. The failure to consult Mrs Tracey had breached her human rights. The outcome means that health workers should involve patients in any decision about use of DNACPR notices. There should be convincing reasons if this does not happen and causing distress is not a sufficient reason. The rights of patients to be consulted should be set out in a clear and accessible policy. This should be directed at patients and copies automatically made available to them and their families.
R (T) v Secretary of State for Home Department and anor (EHRC intervener)
This case concerned whether a man who wants to be a teacher has to continue to disclose to educators and prospective employers the fact that when he was 11 he was warned by the police in connection with the theft of two bicycles. The Court held that the requirement to disclose all matters recorded on the Police National Computer - without any filter as to relevance or any other factor - went further than was necessary to accomplish the statutory objective (to enable assessment of suitability for admission to certain occupations or to hold certain types of employment, licenses or permits). It failed to strike a fair balance between T’s rights and the interests of the community. The current legislative scheme was not compatible with T’s rights under Art 8.
Stott v Thomas Cook Tour Operators Ltd
Mrs Stott was prevented from sitting beside her disabled husband to attend to his needs during a flight. She had to attend to his catheter crouching in the aisle, which caused distress and humiliation. The Supreme Court held reluctantly that compensation for the injury to feelings that occurred in-flight was precluded by the Montreal Convention. However, Lady Hale described the treatment and lack of remedy as ‘disgraceful’.
The Court considered that the Convention should be amended to take account of modern equality laws, and that it is for the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to consider other methods of enforcement. It declined to make a reference to the CJEU stating that the law is clear, but in need of amendment.
P and Q v Surrey County Council and P v Cheshire West and Chester Council (EHRC intervener)
P, Q and P have learning disabilities and lack capacity to make decisions about their care and where they live. The case clarified that disabled people cannot be deprived of their liberty in their care placements without proper safeguards, even if their living arrangements are benevolent. As a result, disabled people in vulnerable situations – like P,Q and P - are entitled to regular independent checks, in accordance with Art 5, to ensure the restrictions are in their best interests.
Judgment: P (by his litigation friend the Official Solicitor) v Cheshire West and Cheshire Council and anor; P and Q (by their litigation friend the Official Solicitor) v Surrey County Council  UKSC 19
Jessemey v Rowstock Ltd and anor
Mr Jessemey had been given a poor reference by a former employer after lodging a claim for age discrimination. The Court of Appeal clarified that post employment victimisation is prohibited by the Equality Act. Mr Jessemey’s appeal was allowed and his victimisation claim was successful. Further, the decision will mean that all post relationship victimisation will be prohibited, whatever field it arises in (eg education, services, employment etc)
Last Updated: 29 Jan 2016