Marital Discrimination

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If an employer treats an employee less favourably, not because she is married, but because she is married to a particular man, will that amount to Marital Discrimination?

In the case of Dunn v Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management the EAT said it would.

The salient facts of the case are as follows. Mrs Dunn was employed as a technical services manager. There was a dispute over her employment terms and so she resigned. She claimed constructive unfair dismissal and breach of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975. In respect of the latter claim, she asserted that she was less favourably treated by her employer because she was married to Mr Dunn. Mr Dunn was also in dispute with the same employer.

The EAT held that Ms Dunn’s Human Rights under Arts 8, 12 and 14 were engaged and so section 3 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (now contained in section 8 of the Equality Act 2010) could be interpreted as protecting Ms Dunn by reason of her status of not only of being married but also of being married to her husband. In other words, although the Respondent did not discriminate against married people generally, Ms Dunn was entitled to claim that her unfavourable treatment was marriage-specific and hence specific to her marriage to Mr Dunn.