A person discriminates against another person by either treating them unfavourably (where that person is treated badly) or less favourably (where other people receive better treatment even though their circumstances are not materially different to that person).
Where discrimination is based upon a person’s race, it is unlawful.
You can be discriminated against racially due to your own race, your perceived race, or the race of someone you associate with.
However, this apparently straightforward position creates difficulties for tribunals. Employers will almost always deny that race had anything to do with the alleged discrimination. The tribunal in this situation has to find the true and effective reason for the employer’s action.
The employer’s motive is irrelevant. There doesn’t need to be a consciously motive on the employer’s part.
The defence of justification is not available for direct discrimination.
There is no longer a need in Direct Discrimination for the employee to actually possess the prohibited characteristic themselves allowing “Associative Discrimination” as a wholly new concept.
Hence, the Act covers less favourable treatment by the employer of the employer on the grounds of another person’s race.
Under Associative Discrimination, the victim of discrimination does not need to possess the protected characteristic of race. For instance, a person who received less favouranble treatment from their employer because their adopted brother is black, would be covered.
Discrimination by perception
Direct Discrimination also covers discrimination by perception. That is discrimination because of an employee’s perceived characteristic. For example, an employer rejects a job application from a white woman who it wrongly thinks is black because she has an African sounding name.