Age Discrimination Can Apply To Companies
A recent case in the Employment Appeal Tribunal has held that a limited company could bring a claim against a third party alleging discrimination on the basis of the age of the principal shareholder and director.
The Equality Act 2010 prevents discrimination against a person and under the Interpretation Act 1978 the definition of “person” includes a limited company unless a particular statute indicates otherwise, which the Equality Act does not.
The claim related to an individual who set up a limited company for tax reasons as he approached the retirement age specified for the limited liability partnership (“the LLP”) of which he was a member. The claimant was the sole director of the company and he resigned from membership of the LLP and was replaced by his limited company. The claimant was not an employee or a worker of the LLP following this change and he had no direct contractual connection with the LLP.
The LLP refused to accept further services from the limited company when the claimant reached 62 years of age, the retirement age for members of the LLP, and the LLP also objected to the limited company continuing to be a member of the LLP. As a result of this both the claimant and the limited company brought the claim against the LLP on the grounds of age discrimination.
This case is important as it confirms that discrimination claims may be brought by limited companies or other legal (as opposed to natural) persons such as limited liability partnerships. Claims will be based on the protected characteristics of the individuals associated with the legal person such as its shareholders or directors. Protected characteristics are listed in the Equality Act and include age, race, religion, gender, disability and sexual orientation. Legal entities need to bear in mind that even though their members, shareholders or directors may not be individuals it is now clear that the natural persons owning or controlling those members, shareholders or directors do have protection under the Equality Act.
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 EAD Solicitors LLP v Abrams