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What happens if a business fails to engage with a complaint of discrimination against them?

View profile for Abigail Martland
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What happens if a business fails to engage with a complaint of discrimination against them?

One of the main reasons that a business will face difficulties or have to pay significant costs in defending a discrimination claim from a customer/service user, is because they do not engage with a complaint or letter before action when it is received, in the hopes that the complainant will “go away”.

If a person believes that they have been treated unfavourably and unlawfully discriminated against by your business or an employee who works for your business or organisation, they may take action against you. In some circumstances you may receive an initial complaint raising concerns about a breach of the Equality Act 2010, however it is also not uncommon to be issued with a letter of claim or letter before action at the outset, which is an indication that the individual is intending to bring court action against you, or that they are exploring your willingness to engage in settlement discussions prior to a claim being brought.

Why should  a business seek legal advice?

Those businesses who seek legal advice immediately upon receipt  of a complaint or claim will save significant time and costs, by dealing with and adequately addressing the proposed case before proceedings are brought in the County Court.

If you receive a letter before action, then in accordance with the court’s pre-action protocol, you are generally expected to provide a response within 21 days. Pre-action protocol sets out that a letter before action must be sent to a defendant 21 days prior to serving a claim, and therefore if you, as a business, do receive a complaint, you should seek to investigate the same and substantively respond without delay to avoid the claim being served upon you.

Failing to engage with a complaint or claim of discrimination against you and/or your business will also carry significant costs risks. Due to the complexity of Equality Act proceedings, you could expect to pay in excess of tens of thousands of pounds to defend your claim, plus any disbursements for the involvement of a barrister if necessary, if the claim reaches the County Court.

Aside from accruing substantial legal costs, addressing any complaints against you at the outset may avoid any negative reviews being published about your business online or otherwise which could in turn avoid current or prospective customers from being deterred from engaging with your business going forwards.

At Stephensons we have vast experience in defending discrimination claims. Not only can we provide you, as a business, with advice about the prospects of and indeed representing you in defending any claims threatened or issued against you, but we may be able to assist you with investigating and preparing appropriate responses to the complaint / claim at an early stage, to help to potentially resolve further and significant costs being incurred in the matter becoming protracted/litigated.

For a no obligation, discussion with our specialist discrimination defence solicitors. Call us now on 0161 696 6170.