When sacking isn’t religious discrimination

In the case of De Groen v Gan Menachem Hendon, a teacher was sacked from an ‘ultra-orthodox’ Jewish nursery in London because she was living unmarried with her boyfriend. The nursery, Gan Menachem Hendon, dismissed Zelda De Groen for acting contrary to her employer’s “culture, ethos and religious beliefs”.

Ms De Groen’s claim of religious discrimination was upheld by the Employment Tribunal, but the Employment Appeal Tribunal held that the nursery’s actions would have been the same whatever her religious beliefs, and so they were not discriminating against her religion.

Legal opinion

This case reminds us of the purpose of discrimination law: to protect individuals against less favourable treatment based on their own protected characteristics, not to protect them from treatment based on a protected characteristic of the discriminator. So, if the employer’s actions were based on its own beliefs, this action was permissible.

Teachers within faith schools may be more vulnerable if they don’t adhere strictly to the school’s faith. However, we understand that there is now a campaign for the Government to remove this “protection” of faith schools. Regardless of religious opinions, clear and robust equal opportunities policies are needed to help employers and employees understand what is acceptable within the workplace and what isn’t.

If you need help preparing suitable equal opportunities policies, please do get in touch.