Section 45: Discrimination
173.Section 45 defines discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief for the purposes of this Part. Subsections (1) & (2) define direct discrimination. This occurs where, on grounds of religion or belief, person A treats person B less favourably than he would treat others. For the purposes of the comparison which has to be made to determine whether one person has been treated less favourably than another, the relevant circumstances in each case must not be materially different.Subsection (1) provides that direct discrimination can occur even if it is not person B’s religion or belief, but another person’s religion or belief, which constitutes the grounds for discrimination. For example, it would apply if a shopkeeper refuses to serve a customer, not because of the customer’s religion, but because of the religion of his friend who is in the shop with him. However, it does not apply where the less favourable treatment occurs solely on grounds of A’s religion or belief – for example where A feels motivated to take particular action because of what his religion or belief requires. Additionally, subsection (1) clarifies that person A will still have unlawfully discriminated, even if they subscribe to the same religion or belief as that of the victim of discrimination. Subsection (2) indicates that discrimination can also occur even if A is mistaken as to B’s religion: i.e. if person B is not of the religion presumed by person A. So if a shopkeeper refuses to serve a customer because he believes that he belongs to a certain religion, it is irrelevant whether or not the customer is actually of that religion, he could still use this Part to bring a case of religious discrimination against the shopkeeper.
174.Subsection (3) defines indirect discrimination. This occurs where person A applies to person B a provision, criterion or practice, which he applies equally to other people, but which puts people of person B’s religion or belief at a disadvantage compared with some or all other people. Person B must also have personally suffered a disadvantage compared to some or all persons not of his religion or belief. It would not be unlawful however if the action causing disadvantage to person B could be reasonably justified by reference to matters other than B’s religion or belief: for example, if it was performed to meet security or health and safety concerns, or if the efficiency of a business would be seriously jeopardised by failure to take the action complained about.
175.Subsections (4) and (5) define victimisation. This occurs where person A treats person B less favourably than others because person B: has brought, or intends to bring, proceedings under these religious discrimination provisions; has given or provided, or intends to give or provide, evidence or information in connection with such proceedings; or has done, or intends to do, any other thing in connection with this Part (including an allegation that a person has contravened it). Victimisation will also have taken place if person A treats person B less favourably than others because he suspects that person B has done any of these things. It will not be victimisation however, if person A’s treatment of person B relates to B’s making, other than in good faith, a false allegation.