The Equality Act 2010 provides protection from being discriminated against.
Whilst most people are aware that you can take an employer to the Employment Tribunal for discrimination, fewer people are aware that you can also take any company to the County Court if they have been discriminated against in the provision of a service.
This means that, for example, if you are a customer in a shop, you have a right not to be discriminated against and if you do receive such treatment, you have the right to take forward a civil claim against that shop.
What types of companies does this cover?
The Act places a duty upon all service providers to not discriminate against service users. It defines a service provider as anyone who is concerned with the provision of services to the public or a section of the public.
A wide range of services are covered by the Act. It does not matter whether the service is provided by a private, public or voluntary organisation and it does not matter whether there is a charge or not for the service.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) Statutory Code of Practice on Services, public functions and associations lists the following (non-exhaustive) examples of a service:
What types of Discrimination are there?
To be able to consider taking forward a claim under the Equality Act, you must first show that you have a ‘protected characteristic’ under the Act. The protected characteristics under the Equality Act are:
Discrimination can be either direct or indirect.
Direct discrimination is where you are treated less favourably than other because of a protected characteristic. For example, being refused the sale of goods in a shop specifically because of you religious beliefs would be direct discrimination.
Indirect discrimination is where a company or organisation has in place rules or procedures which apply to everyone but of which apply an unfair disadvantage to someone who has a protected characteristic. For example, a shop allows customers in employment to pay for goods in instalments but those not in work are not offered the same payment scheme. This is likely to affect older customers who are retired and would therefore be indirectly discriminatory towards someone on the basis of their age.
If the discriminatory conduct is severe, you may also have a claim for harassment.
Victimisation is another type of claim under civil discrimination which covers where, for example, you may be refused a service because you have complained about previous discriminatory treatment towards you.
What types of treatment can be classed as Discrimination?
If you are refused service by a company or organisation because of a protected characteristic, then this would be deemed to be potentially discriminatory conduct towards you.
Another example would be where you are using the services of a company but when they find out your protected characteristic, they refuse to continue to allow you to use their service.
Can Discrimination be justified?
There is no defence for direct discrimination but there is for indirect discrimination.
A claim for indirect discrimination will not be successful where the company or organisation in question is able to satisfy to the Court that the treatment towards you is legally justified.
Companies are permitted to discriminate against you if they have a good enough reason for doing so which is known in legal terms as objective justification. If the discrimination is justified, it would not count as unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act.
The Equality Act says that discrimination can be justified if the company or organisation which is discriminating against you can show that such is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. The County Court would ultimately decide if the discrimination can be justified.
A further defence which a company can use it that they didn’t know about the protected characteristic and they could not have reasonably known about it either. This is more common in cases where a disability discrimination is brought but the symptoms of the disability in question may not be visible, for example where the person has a mental health illness.
Can I make a claim for Discrimination?
If you believe that you have been treated differently because of one (or more) of the protected characteristics listed above, then you may be able to make a claim against the company or organisation in question.
How long do I have to make a claim?
There are strict time limits for taking a case to Court.
You need to make your claim within six months of the act you’re complaining about. The Court can allow a claim outside the time limits but such expectations are not often or easily made.
For example, if you were discriminated against on 13 January, you need to start the process by 12 July.
If your deadline falls at the weekend or on a bank holiday, it’s best to take action on the last working day before the deadline so that you can be sure that your claim is made in time.
Time limits for civil discrimination claims are different to those in the Employment Tribunal where if you want to make a claim about discrimination at work, the time limit is only 3 months.
If you do intend to pursue a case in the County Court, it is always advisable to seek legal advice as soon as possible so that your legal representative has sufficient time to prepare your case for litigation ahead of the six month deadline.
Do I need to complain directly first?
Whilst it is not necessary to have made a complaint directly to the company or organisation before seeking legal advice, it is a good option to consider as doing so may enable you to reach a resolution without the need for litigation.
Litigation can be a stressful and lengthy process so where you have an opportunity to resolve the issue without the need to involve the Court system then we would recommend considering doing so.
The government has produced guidance on asking and responding to questions about discrimination in the provision of goods and services and public functions. The guidance also covers discrimination in housing and education.
The guidance sets out 6 steps you should follow to prepare for and seek information from the person or organisation you think may have discriminated against you. These are:
You can download a suggested complaint letter template here.
How do I make a claim?
Before deciding on whether making a claim is the best option for you, it’s important to seek some initial legal advice. Here at Oakwood Solicitors we offer a free assessment and would be happy to discuss with you whether we thought there were merits to a possible action.
If you agree to proceed forward with a claim, then our team will be happy to explain the process in further detail with you.
How much is my claim worth?
If you are successful with a claim for civil discrimination and you choose to pursue a claim for financial compensation, you might be able to get compensation for:
You can read more about injury to feelings and compensation for personal injury here.
How would be my case be funded?
There can be a number of ways to fund your legal fees. Subject to individual assessment, the most common method to fund a claim of this nature is by way of a Conditional Fee Agreement which is often referred to as a No Win No Fee Agreement.
This means that if the claim is unsuccessful then you will not have to pay us anything towards our costs, subject to compliance with the terms and conditions of the agreement in place.
If we are able to help, we can explain this further to you and also other ways to fund your claim if a ‘No-Win, No-Fee’ option is not suitable for you.
Why choose Oakwood Solicitors Ltd to bring your dispute claim?
From the start of your claim until the conclusion you will have a dedicated advisor who will run your claim, assisting you in the event of any queries or issues you may have. Regular updates will be provided by your case handler up until your claim has ended. This is to ensure the process is as stress-free and effortless as possible.
WHAT TO DO NEXT
For advice on how to progress with a Public Discrimination case, or to learn more about legal rights, get in touch today for a free initial consultation. Choose one of the methods on the right-hand side of this page, or call us on 0113 200 9787 to find out how we can help you.
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If you are successful with a claim for civil discrimination and you choose to pursue a claim for financial compensation. You might be able to get compensation for: Any financial loss suffered because of the discrimination The emotional impact of the discrimination – this is legally termed an ‘injury to feelings’ award Any personal injury…
No-Win, No-Fee – Public Discrimination Claims
As I begin my enquiry about my Public Discrimination claim, what does ‘No-Win, No-Fee’ mean? There can be a number of ways to fund your legal fees for many legal cases, such as Public Discrimination. Following a provisional assessment of your potential claim, we may be able to offer you something called a Conditional Fee…
To be able to consider taking forward a claim under the Equality Act, you must first show that you have a ‘protected characteristic’ under the Act. The protected characteristics under the Equality Act are: Age Disability Gender Reassignment Marriage and Civil Partnership Pregnancy and Maternity Race Religion or Belief Sex Sexual Orientation Under the section…
Here at Oakwood Solicitors, we’re not your average law firm – our team delivers a service which caters to you. From assessing your case through to completion, our staff have not only the knowledge and expertise, but also the compassion and understanding to put you at ease throughout the process.