Can an employee claim direct or indirect discrimination on grounds of religion because she feels that her employer’s behaviour is inconsistent with what she understands to be “the Christian way of life”? That was one of the issues raised in Miss M Keens-Betts v The Anthony Gregg Partnership Ltd  UKET 2208102/2016.
Miss Keens-Betts, a litigant in person, did not assert that she was treated any differently or worse than a non-Christian or non-religious person would have been treated. What she argued was that her employers’ poor behaviour was of itself inconsistent with religious values and that, because her employer knew of her religious values, she was particularly vulnerable to bullying because she felt obliged to “turn the other cheek” . In her words:
“An environment of abuse and positive reciprocation is mutually exclusive. In fact, the only expression of reciprocation that could exist here is ‘an eye for an eye’. Therefore, Christian life and life at the Anthony Gregg Partnership are catastrophically incompatible … I have the right to raise the Christian standard as a recognisable and fundamental benchmark of common morality/decency in the UK … I believe the value of the Golden Rule of ‘Love They Neighbour’ is inherent in Government’s Policy. Therefore, it is directly relevant to employee treatment” .
In a preliminary hearing judgment, EmpIoyment Judge Lewis was not at all convinced:
“I do not believe this concept fits within any of the definitions in the Equality Act 2010. For harassment … the respondents’ conduct must be ‘related to’ religion. The conduct in this case was neutral. The fact that it might have particular adverse impact on a Christian or Catholic person does not mean the conduct was related to religion. In any event, I do not accept that the type of conduct alleged in this case would have any more adverse impact on a Christian / Catholic person than anyone else. Sadly, employees of all faiths and of no faith are likely to be distressed by poor employment practices and bullying behaviour.
For similar reasons, I do not believe the definitions of direct discrimination or indirect discrimination would apply. It is not direct discrimination because there is no evidence whatsoever that the respondents would have treated the claimant any differently if she had not been Christian / Catholic. It is not indirect discrimination, because there is no evidence – and I do not accept – that generalised bullying would put Christian / Catholic employees at a particular disadvantage compared with non-Christian / non-Catholic employees” [15 & 16].
He therefore struck out all the religious discrimination claims as having no reasonable prospect of success.
Whether “the Golden Rule of ‘Love They Neighbour’” is, in fact, inherent in the policy of any government – of whatever political stripe – is itself a highly-arguable proposition. But be that as it may, the fact that employees of a particular faith community are distressed by bullying behaviour does not discriminate against them on religious grounds, because a comparable group of non-religious employees would be equally distressed.