Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the contents of these case digests, they are for general guidance on the subject matters only and should not be treated as a substitute for specific legal advice. You are advised to seek advice from your legal advisor as and when necessary.
Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police v KhanCourt Ruling
 UKHL 48
The Plaintiff is a police officer of Indian descent with the West Yorkshire constabulary, who was twice rejected for promotion to the rank of inspector. The Plaintiff made a claim of direct discrimination under the Race Relations Act of 1976 with an industrial tribunal, as he believed that his failure to obtain a promotion was due to race discrimination. While the direct discrimination claim was pending, the Plaintiff applied for the post of inspector at the Norfolk constabulary. The Norfolk police asked the West Yorkshire police for a reference. The West Yorkshire police, acting on internal legal advice, informed the Norfolk police about the pending claim and declined to give a reference for fear of prejudicing their case before the tribunal. As a result thereof, the Plaintiff amended his claim to include the charge of victimization.
The Plaintiff lost on the claim of direct discrimination before the industrial tribunal, which found that he was not treated less favorably. However, he prevailed on the claim of victimization based on West Yorkshire’s failure to provide a reference. The West Yorkshire police appealed this decision to the Court of Appeal, and subsequently to the House of Lords.
Victimization under the Race Relations Act occurs when, in any circumstances relevant for the purposes of any provision of the Act, a person is treated less favourably than others because he has done one of the protected acts (such as bringing a discrimination claim under the Act). The House of Lords ruled in favor of the Defendant, as the Plaintiff had failed to show that the reason for the Defendant’s failure to furnish a reference was that he had brought the race discrimination claim.
On the element of less favourable treatment, Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead was of the view that the relevant comparator is another person employed at the same establishment as the Plaintiff, who has applied for a reference when seeking employment with another employer. The fact that the West Yorkshire police generally gives such reference is enough to establish that the Plaintiff was treated less favourably. Lord Scott of Foscote’s view was that there must be a quality in the treatment that enables the complainant reasonably to complain about it; it suffices if the complainant can reasonably say that he would have preferred not to have been treated differently.
On the element of causation, the House of Lords adopted the reasoning in Cornelius v University College of Swansea, a case with very similar facts. In Cornelius , the court found on two grounds that victimization did not occur. First, the employer’s refusal to act on the complainant’s transfer request was due to the existence of pending legal proceedings, as distinct from the complainant’s conduct in bringingg the proceedings. Secondly, the employer’s refusal was not due to the fact that the complainant brought proceedings under the relevant statute; the decision would have been the same whatever the nature of the proceedings. Likewise, the House of Lords here found that the reason why the Defendant did not comply with the request for a reference was that proceedings were pending, and not because the Plaintiff had brought the race discrimination claim.
Jones v Tower Boot Co LtdCourt Ruling
 2 All ER 406
The Plaintiff is a mixed-race (half black) employee who left his employment after suffering a series of racially-motivated verbal and physical attacks by coworkers. The Plaintiff brought a claim with the Industrial Tribunal against his employer under the Race Relations Act 1976, which provides for employer vicarious liability under Sec. 32(1): “anything done by a person in the course of his employment shall be treated for the purposes of this Act as done by his employer as well as him, whether or not it was done with the employer’s knowledge or approval.”
At issue is the scope of the employer’s vicarious liability. The Court held that the scope of vicarious liability under the Act is not subject to the same principles as under common law. At common law, a “master” (i.e. an employer who exercises considerable control over the employee, or “servant”) is liable for acts that he has not authorized, as long as the unauthorized acts can be regarded as a mode, albeit an improper mode, of doing the acts authorized by him. The language of the Race Relations Act indicates that it is meant to have a wider scope of employer vicarious liability: (1) vicarious liability at common law exists only when there is a master-servant relationship, whereas the Act goes wider than that relationship to include any relationship where a person is “under a contract personally to execute any work or labour”; (2) to establish vicarious liability at common law it has to be shown that the employee was “authorized” to do the act from which the tort arose, whereas vicarious liability under the Act can be established regardless of whether the tortious act was “done with the employer’s knowledge or approval.”
Given the intended wider scope, Sec. 32(1) of the RRA covers what is regarded as “within the course of employment” in ordinary usage, as a layman would understand it. All racial discriminatory actions committed by a person in the course of employment are attributed to the employer, whether or not done with the employer’s knowledge or approval. In this case, this covers the verbal and physical attacks on the Plaintiff by coworkers in the workplace.
King v The Great Britain-China CentreCourt Ruling
 EWCA Civ 16
The Plaintiff is a Chinese-British who unsuccessfully applied for the position of Deputy Director of the Great Britain-China Centre, an organization which works to promote closer economic ties between British and Chinese companies. The Plaintiff alleges that the Defendant unlawfully discriminated against her on the ground of her race, in violation of the Race Relations Act 1976. When asked to explain how it selected applicants to interview, the Defendant twice made a misleading reply that it based its decision on a criterion of knowledge of Chinese institutions, but which was not mentioned in the advertisement for the vacancy. Additionally, none of the five ethnically Chinese applicants was interviewed even though eight others out of a total of 30 applicants were.
The Plaintiff appeals from the holding of the Employment Appeal Tribunal that placed the burden of proving a racial discrimination case on the complainant.
The Court held that the Plaintiff has the burden of proving her case of racial discrimination on the balance of probabilities. It will usually be difficult to find direct evidence of racial discrimination, however the facts could point to the possibility of racial discrimination. In that case, the tribunal can ask the employer for an explanation. If no explanation is put forward or if the tribunal considers the explanation to be inadequate or unsatisfactory, it will be reasonable for the tribunal to infer that the discrimination was on racial grounds. The tribunal should reach a conclusion on the balance of probabilities, bearing in mind both the difficulties which face a person who complains of unlawful discrimination and the fact that it is for the complainant to prove his or her case.