• Robert Spicer

Race discrimination: stereotypical assumptions: Chief Constable of Kent Constabulary v Bowler

Stereotypical assumptions

Unreasonable conduct

Case Chief Constable of Kent Constabulary v Bowler (2017) Morning Star, May 5, EAT

Facts B, a police officer with 25 years service, complained of direct race discrimination because his attempts at promotion were thwarted. He brought a grievance. This was not upheld. B claimed that the grievance, and a subsequent appeal, had not been treated seriously. He also complained of victimisation and made six allegations of less favourable treatment on grounds of race. The ET found that the grievance officer’s lackadaisical approach indicated a stereotypical view that B was over-sensitive because of his race and he would not have treated another grievance in a similar offhand manner. There was a prima facie case of less favourable treatment on grounds of race. The employer appealed to the EAT.

Decision 1. The appeal was allowed and the matter remitted back to the ET for reconsideration.

2. Although unlawful direct discrimination can occur when a person makes stereotypical assumptions, tribunals cannot rely on unproven assertions.

3. There must be some evidence that a discriminator held a stereotypical assumption about race and that this operated on their mind when treating a complainant in the way alleged.

4. The ET had made a leap from a finding that the officer handling the grievance acted incompetently and had a lackadaisical attitude, to a conclusion that this indicated a stereotypical view.

5. In the absence of adequate material from which this inference could be drawn, the tribunal was not entitled to conclude that a prima facie case of less favourable treatment on race grounds had been established by B.

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