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When a dismissal may amount to marriage discrimination

When a church minister began to experience marital difficulties, the church leadership expressed concerns about the possible effect on his ministry. He was eventually dismissed, the reason asserted was for a breakdown in trust and confidence.

The claimant issued proceedings for direct discrimination because of marriage, but an employment tribunal struck this out at a preliminary hearing. They held that the dismissal was because of marital difficulties rather than the status of marriage, and so was not a necessary protected characteristic allowing a discrimination claim.

The EAT disagreed, holding that the dismissal was alleged to be because of the difficulties and the fact that the claimant was married. The only reason the marriage difficulties were significant to the church was because there was a marriage in which there could be difficulties. The EAT remitted the substantive case for determination back to a employment tribunal.

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