Logo
HR | Employment Law | Health & Safety

01244 893776

Logo
HR | Employment Law | Health & Safety
pexels photo

» Share This Post

Discrimination by perception happens when an employee is treated less favourably because others believe they have a protected characteristic, even if in reality, they do not.

For example, this would be treating an employee less favourably because you believe they are homosexual.It could also occur during the application process, for example, an employer rejects a job application from a white woman, who they wrongly believe is Chinese because she has a Chinese sounding surname.

Similarly to associative discrimination, discrimination by perception does not extend the protected characteristics of marriage and civil partnership or pregnancy and maternity.

Discrimination by perception also does not apply in cases of indirect discrimination.

The History Of Discrimination By Perception

Discrimination based on association or perception is not a new concept, and was enshrined in case law, but with limited application.The Government then reconsidered the law and extended the Equality Act 2010 to include discrimination by association and perception.

Case Law

An interesting case regarding discrimination by perception is Chief Constable of Norfolk v Coffey.In this case, the Employment Appeal Tribunal confirmed that rejecting a job applicant because of a perception that a condition that may later become a disability is direct discrimination.Mrs Coffey was an employee of Wiltshire Constabulary and was promoted to Police Constable. As part of this process, she underwent a medical examination, during which it was discovered that her hearing fell below the standard required by the Home Office.Wiltshire Constabulary then arranged for Mrs Coffey to undergo a functionality test which she subsequently passed. Mrs Coffey worked as a Police Constable without any issues.Mrs Coffey then applied to transfer to Norfolk Constabulary. As part of this process, she again underwent a medical assessment. However, Norfolk Constabulary rejected her application to transfer, on the basis that they considered she would have to be placed on restricted duties in the future due to her hearing, as they considered that the condition was degenerative.Mrs Coffey subsequently brought a claim for direct disability discrimination.It was found that Norfolk Constabulary had subjected Mrs Coffey to direct disability discrimination, as they had perceived her to be potentially disabled due to her degenerative hearing condition.The Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld the decision, as even though Mrs Coffey was not disabled and would not have become disabled in the near future, the fact that Norfolk Constabulary had acted based upon perception meant that direct disability discrimination had occurred.Discrimination by perception is not perhaps as obvious as other forms of discrimination, and will only occur in unique circumstances. This, therefore, makes it more difficult for employers to anticipate when they may be liable for a claim for discrimination by perception. In these circumstances, employers should always seek specialist legal advice.

Neathouse Partners Newsletter

Join 7,494 business owners and HR practitioners keeping ‘in the know’ with the latest HR,  Employment Law & Health and Safety developments.

About The Author.

James Rowland

James Rowland

James is the Commercial Director at Neathouse Partners. He is responsible for all Account Management, Sales & Marketing within the company. Having gained a BSc in Psychology and further study for his post-grad Law degree, James embarked on his legal career in 2014. Since then, he has become an Associate Director at a national Employment Law boutique, studied for a Masters in Marketing, and as of 2018, been a Director at Neathouse Partners. Outside of the office, James is a keen cricketer, playing very badly (he calls himself a Batsman but averages single figures) in the Cheshire League for Nantwich CC. He also loves watching his childhood football team, Crewe Alexandra, and is an avid lover of cinema (his favourite film being Pulp Fiction). Feel free to connect with James on LinkedIn.
How To Handle Work Related Social Events
HR Documentation

How To Handle Work Related Social Events 

Tasked with improving team spirit, arranging the Christmas party, or just wondering how to handle work related social events as an employer? Read on for

Do You Need Ongoing HR Support?

We help all businesses, from startups to household names,
deal with the straightforward to the ultra-complex.

About Neathouse Partners

We are a small collective of experienced Employment Lawyers, HR Consultants & Health and Safety specialists.

We provide businesses with, outsourced HR services, employment law advice and health & safety services.

Our Latest Posts

Services

Do You Need Ongoing HR Support?

We help all businesses, from startups to household names,
deal with the straightforward to the ultra-complex.