Direct race discrimination can never be justified
In Amnesty International v Ahmed, Ms Ahmed, who is of Sudanese origin, had her promotion application for the post of Sudan researcher rejected on the basis that her ethnic origin would compromise Amnesty International’s (AI) perceived impartiality and would expose Ms Ahmed and her colleagues to safety risks when travelling in Sudan. Ms Ahmed resigned and brought claims before an employment tribunal for race discrimination and constructive dismissal. The tribunal upheld both of her claims and Amnesty International appealed.
The EAT agreed that Ms Ahmed had suffered direct discrimination on grounds of her ethnic origin. The fact that appointing someone of her ethic origin to the role would compromise the organisation’s perceived impartiality in relation to the conflict in Sudan and expose her and others to unacceptable safety risks was irrelevant. Direct race discrimination cannot be justified, even though the motive for the treatment is non-discriminatory and arises out of genuine concern.
However, Ms Ahmed had not been constructively dismissed. Although AI had committed an act of direct discrimination, that in itself does not automatically amount to a breach of the implied contractual term of mutual trust and confidence. AI’s decision had been reached after a careful and thorough process, and for genuine reasons that showed no racial prejudice at all. It could not therefore be said that the organisation had acted without reasonable and proper cause in a manner calculated or likely to destroy or seriously damage its relationship with Ms Ahmed.