Can you discriminate against a company based on age?

The Employment Appeals Tribunal thinks so, where a company is discriminated against on the basis of the age of its principal shareholder and director.

In the recent matter of EAD Solicitors LLP and others v Abrams UKEAT/0054/15, the Tribunal held that a limited company that was a member of an LLP could bring a direct discrimination claim against the LLP as a result of age discrimination against its principal shareholder and director.

The Equality Act 2010 (“the Act”) prevents discrimination by a “person” against another “person”. “Person” is defined in the Interpretation Act 1978 as including a limited company unless the statute states otherwise, which the Act did not. Accordingly, the Tribunal rejected the LLP’s argument that only individuals are protected under the Act and that a limited company could not be discriminated against under the Act.

Matthew Howat, Commercial & Dispute Partner, comments: “This case is significant as it has the potential to open the floodgates for limited companies, LLPs and charities etc to complain of discriminatory treatment based on the protected characteristics of individuals associated with it, such as its member, director, employee or otherwise. For example, a decision by a bank to refuse a company loan could be questioned as to whether the decision was in fact because of its owners’ age, race, sex or religious belief etc. Companies will therefore need to be very careful to maintain a sufficient papertrail to support all commercial decisions”.

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