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Caste discrimination

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There has for some time been a call for clarity over whether a claim for caste discrimination can be pursued under the Equality Act 2010. The matter has now been decided in the case Chandok and another v Tirkey [2015] IRLR 195 EAT. 
 
In this case, a domestic servant was awarded £183,744 in unpaid wages however the key legal issue was that of caste discrimination.
 
Ms Tirkey, a Christian, worked as a domestic servant for Mr and Mrs Chandok, first in India and later in the UK. She alleged that she was paid 11 pence per hour and had to be on call 24 hours per day. She also claimed that she had to sleep on a mattress on the floor and was prevented from bringing her bible to the UK. Ms Tirkey is from the Adavisi people and in her claim form, she indicated that she believed that the reason for her recruitment and the alleged treatment was that she was of a lower status than employers; a view which she said was “tainted by caste considerations”.
 
Ms Tirkey, brought various claims in the Employment Tribunal, including that the Chandoks had discriminated against her due to her caste. The case progressed to the Employment Appeals Tribunal to decide on the legal issue of whether or not caste discrimination claims can be pursued under the Equality Act 2010.
 
The EAT decided that such a claim could be brought, and Ms Tirkey was later successful with her claim for caste discrimination. The Tribunal found that the Chandoks went to India to recruit a domestic servant as they wanted an employee who would be “not only of service but servile”. 
 
The case represents a legal landmark, as for the first time caste has been considered by an employment tribunal as an aspect of race. The sum of £183,744 was awarded to Ms Tirkey in unpaid wages as she was not paid the national minimum wage, with an injury to feelings award to be decided at a remedies hearing to be held in November 2015.
 
By Natalie Parkinson, trainee solicitor in the dispute resolution team.

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