An increase to the enforcement powers of the Equality and Human Rights Commission?


There are some really interesting goings-on in Italy currently that could impact on the Equality and Human Rights Commission's enforcement powers under the Equality Act.  Remarks made by a lawyer on an Italian radio programme that he would never hire a homosexual person to work in his law firm led to an association for LGBT lawyers bringing a discrimination claim, successfully arguing that the remarks were capable of hindering access to employment and amounted to unlawful discrimination under the Equal Treatment Framework Directive.

The Italian Supreme Court has made a referral to the European Court of Justice on the question of whether the association has standing to bring such an action.  National legislation can allow associations with a legitimate interest the right to bring proceedings to enforce the Directive in the absence of an identifiable victim. Where a legitimate interest is made out (which must be determined according to national law) it is open to an association to ask for discriminatory conduct to be sanctioned in an effective, proportionate and dissuasive manner, including by an award of damages.  If the ECJ agrees, this could impact on how the UK's Equality and Human Rights Commission goes about enforcement.

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