Section 27 of the Equality Act 2010 describes victimisation as treating someone less favourably because they have either:

(a) attempted to bring proceedings, or made an allegation under the Equality Act (for example making a complaint of discrimination to an employer) or

(b) given evidence in connection with those proceedings (for example, by appearing in court on behalf of a colleague who has suffered discrimination).

The Act brought about a change in employment law because previously a claimant had to show that they had been treated less favourably in comparison with others as a result of making a complaint.  This is no longer necessary, a claimant need only prove that they have been treated less favourably irrespective of how others have been treated.

In connection with (b) above a person could not be considered to have been victimised if they were treated less favourably having assisted with a false allegation unless any evidence they gave was given in good faith.

Recent developments

Previously it was accepted that claims for victimisation could not be based on events that arise after an employee has finished working for an employer.  The key case in this regard was Jessemy. This was an important case because it found, under s.108 of the Equality Act 2012, that victimisation was not unlawful if it happened after the end of employment.

In this case an employee could not claim to have been victimised when his  employer provided a bad reference after his making a claim for unfair dismissal at an Employment Tribunal.  However there has been an interesting development in this area with the case of Onu v Akwiku2  In this case, although the facts were not made out to support a finding of victimisation, Jessemy was not followed.

This means that, potentially, claims for victimisation can now arise from events after the end of employment.   This is important for those claimants who find that they are not able to secure a reference, or at least a good reference after they have brought claims under the Equality Act against their employers. The respondents were given the right to appeal so that this area of law might be considered more carefully.  Employment lawyers will be watching the case closely.

If you feel that you have been victimised at work then please do not hesitate to contact us on 0800 014 8727 or 020 3923 0888 for confidential, no obligation free initial legal advice.