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Discrimination claims against service providers

A service provider can be a company, organisation or business which offers goods, facilities and/or services to the public. 

Service providers can include:

 

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What is discrimination?

Discrimination is the unequal treatment of an individual or a number of individuals who are considered protected persons under the terms of the Equality Act 2010.

Who can make a claim for discrimination?

A person can be protected from discrimination if it can be proven that the act to which they were subjected was because of their age, gender, race, sexual orientation, marital status, pregnancy or maternity, gender reassignment, religious beliefs or disability.

Associative discrimination

Further, if a family member, friend or loved ones hold a protected characteristic they may have grounds for a claim if they are treated unfavourably simply as a result of their association with that person.

Types of discrimination

Discrimination by housing associations

Common discrimination claims against housing associations are brought by individual tenants.

Issues can arise in the strict implementation of banding criteria which does not provide for flexibility in circumstances where a person with, for example a specific disability would be placed at a disadvantage. Such a disadvantage could occur in the incorrect allocation of a banding based on the housing association’s opinion of an individual’s need to be housed, which prevents them from bidding on properties suitable to their actual needs due to their disability.

Other claims may arise from housing associations failing to provide adequate support and assistance to tenants or potential tenants who require it as a result of a disability.

Examples of common complaints against housing associations in these circumstances include:

  • A tenant requiring all information to be communicated to them in an alternative method to written letters/emails because they have sight impairments or learning difficulties which prevent them from being able to engage with that type of correspondence.
    • Adequate adjustments or support could include telephone or face to face meetings to discuss the issues relevant or to provide correspondence in larger font.
  • A tenant requiring personal assistance with the act of bidding for properties due to a disability or learning difficulty.
    • Adequate adjustments or support could include a member of the housing associations staff meeting with the tenant to assist them in engaging in the bidding process.

Further, local authorities in their capacity as landlords are under a duty to make reasonable adjustments to their properties to accommodate their tenants who suffer from disabilities, to enable them to enjoy their home as any other tenants would be able to. The test in such claims is ‘reasonableness’. For example, there is no duty on the local authority to make changes that affect the structure of the building that would permanently alter the home – such as adding or removing walls or installing permanent ramps. However, all of the circumstances of the case and the adjustments proposed by the individuals will be taken into account by a court.

If a local authority is proven to have failed, claims can be made for injunctive measures to force the implementation of reasonable adjustments and/or for payments of damages in lieu of the injury to feelings and any financial losses incurred as a result of their breach of duty.

If you believe that you have been the victim of such discrimination and would like to speak to a member of our team call us on 01616 966 229 or complete our online enquiry form without delay.

Discrimination by a university and further education providers

Further education providers can include:

  • Sixth form colleges
  • Technical colleges
  • Vocational colleges
  • Work based learning providers
  • Adult or community learning institutions

Most commonly, students bring claims against their universities or further education providers because they have failed to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate students’ disabilities.

Before students begin their courses with higher and further education providers, it is common for assessments to be undertaken to confirm the extent of their disabilities and the adjustments required to be made by the education providers to enable them to study to the best of their abilities.

 Although universities and further education providers are under a duty in their role as service providers to ensure that adjustments are made to their day to day practices to accommodate disabled students, it is reported that they often fail to do so. These failures can impact upon students’ results and ultimately whether they are able to complete and pass their course.

Should universities or further education providers fail in carrying out their duty to make reasonable adjustments, claims can be brought in the County Court for injunctive orders enforcing these duties along with claims for payments of damages in lieu of financial losses incurred and injury to feelings and or health caused by the apparent failures.

Further, universities and further education providers can be held accountable for their employees having treated students unfavourably because of their protected status under one of the other heads listed above. Such behaviour can give rise to claims for financial rewards being brought in the County Court by way of compensation.

Leisure and retail companies

The leisure and retail industry includes all manner of businesses providing services relating to recreational activities, entertainment, sports and tourism.

Leisure and retail businesses can include:

  • Independent shops
  • Department stores
  • Travel companies
  • Hotels
  • Estate agencies
  • Banks
  • Leisure complexes
  • Gyms
  • Cinemas
  • Restaurants
  • Utility companies
  • Theme parks

Claims can be brought by individuals who believe that they have been treated unfavourably by employees of or the policies of leisure and retail businesses, if it can be proven that such conduct was by reason of their protected status.

Businesses cannot refuse service or subject an individual to a poorer quality of service than others on the basis of their race, gender, perceived sexual orientation, perceived marital status, pregnancy, perceived transgender status, perceived religious beliefs or their disability.

Cases brought in the County Court relating to this type of conduct generally include claims for damages in compensation for such treatment.

Public and private transport providers

Public and private transport providers can include:

  • Train companies
  • Public bus service providers
  • Private transport companies
  • Ferry companies
  • Airlines
  • Taxi Firms

Claims can be brought by individuals who believe that they have been treated unfavourably by employees of or the policies of these types of service provider, if it can be proven that such conduct was by reason of their protected status.

Transport providers cannot refuse service or subject an individual to a poorer quality of service than others on the basis of their race, gender, perceived sexual orientation, perceived marital status, pregnancy, perceived transgender status, perceived religious beliefs or their disability.

Common complaints against these types of service providers include issues relating to the quality of service provided to disabled customers.

Complaints can include failures to provide appropriate facilities for disabled customers to enable them to travel or even refusal of carriage because of their use of mobility aids.

These types of service providers are under a duty to make reasonable adjustments to their policies, practices and facilities to enable the enjoyment of their service for disabled customers. The test in is ‘reasonableness’ and so all of the circumstances of the case will be taken into account by a County Court when determining whether the service provider has failed in their duty.

Recent case law

In the case of Paulley v First Group PLC the Court of Appeal held that the travel company’s policies indirectly discriminated against Mr Paulley because they did not provide for the enforcement of the use of the allocated wheelchair space for the disabled over other service users who were not disabled. In this case, Mr Paulley had been refused access to the bus service on the basis that a mother with a child sleeping in a pram were already occupying the space and had refused to vacate it.

For further detail please see: Landmark decision or partial victory? Paulley v First Group PLC

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