Was it marriage discrimination to dismiss a church minister whose marriage had broken down?

Updated: Jun 25


The Claimant was a church minister who alleged that the reason for his dismissal was the breakdown of his marriage and brought claims for unfair dismissal and marriage discrimination.

The tribunal dismissed his claim, finding that while the breakdown of his marriage was part of the background of events, it was not the reason for the dismissal. The reason was solely a breakdown of trust and confidence relating to his behaviour, including his public manifestation of his marital difficulties but not the breakdown itself.

On appeal, the Employment Appeal Tribunal held that if a significant reason for the dismissal was that the church believed that the nature of marriage is such that a marital breakdown meant a vicar could not continue in office, or his behaviour would not have been a significant reason for his dismissal (where he was not married), then the claim would have succeeded. However, on the facts, neither proposition was made out and the appeal was dismissed.

Gould v. St John’s Downshire Hill:

https://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKEAT/2020/0002_20_0506.pdf

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