Postman loses race discrimination claim against Royal Mail

A postman has lost his race discrimination claim against Royal Mail. In dismissing his case, the Court of Appeal outlined the twin test that must be passed to win such a claim.

The court heard that the postman had graduate and post-graduate qualifications in forensic computing and had applied unsuccessfully for over 30 internal posts in the managerial/IT service area.

Royal Mail used external recruiters during the recruitment process. The postman brought proceedings for direct and indirect discrimination in relation to 22 of the applications. 

The Employment Tribunal found that he had failed to establish direct or indirect discrimination. The Employment Appeal Tribunal overturned that decision, saying that the tribunal had erred in its approach to the burden of proof under the Equality Act 2010. 

The case went all the way to the Court of Appeal, which upheld the first tribunal’s decision to dismiss the claim.

The court said the burden of proof involved a two-stage process.

First, the burden was on the employee to establish facts from which a tribunal could conclude, on the balance of probabilities, that the alleged discrimination had occurred. 

The onus then shifted to the employer to explain the alleged discriminatory treatment and to satisfy the tribunal that it did not break the law. If the employer did not overcome that hurdle, the tribunal had to find the case proved.

The Appeal judges ruled that in this case, the tribunal was entitled to find that the postman had failed to prove there had been any discrimination.

There was no evidence to suggest that his job applications failed for race-related reasons. The allegations of discrimination were mere assertions unsupported by the necessary factual foundation, so it was not surprising that the tribunal rejected the application.


Case details
[2019] EWCA Civ 18
CA (Civ Div) (Underhill LJ, Baker LJ, Sir Patrick Elias) 23/01/2019

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