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Employer's Blog: Discrimination by association – what is it?

Employer's Blog: Discrimination by association – what is it?
Blog article for employers by Eileen Lavery, Head of Policy at the Equality Commission

It has been a long established principle of equality law that it is unlawful to directly discriminate against or harass one person because of certain characteristics, such as the colour or religion, of another person.

For example, in the early case of Race Relations Board -v- Applin [1973], the English Court of Appeal noted that it would be unlawful racial discrimination for a publican to refuse to serve a white customer because she is accompanied by a black customer. The discrimination is still on racial grounds, i.e. the ground of colour, and is unlawful.

This type of discrimination is often called associative discrimination because the victim is being discriminated against because they are associated with another person who is the main target of the perpetrator’s prejudice.

This concept of discrimination by association also operates in employment-related cases brought under disability discrimination law.

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