Whilst the police are sometimes said to be trigger happy, officers Wheatley and Giles were not.
They complained to the Employment Tribunal that their firearms were too big making it very difficult for them to reach the trigger. The Employment Tribunal agreed holding their employers guilty of indirect sex discrimination on the grounds of gender. That is it found they had a practice (supplying large hand guns) which applied to everyone but which had a disproportionate impact upon women. Employers can seek to justify such practices by showing that they are a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. Not surprisingly this defence could not be made out on the facts of this case.
The case illustrates perfectly the dangers of indirect (sex) discrimination cases. Most employers are now aware of and guard against direct sex discrimination and harassment. But if direct discrimination against women is a wolf, indirect sex discrimination is the wolf in sheep’s clothing. The rule or practice which is the cause of all the trouble is applied to everyone and it is easy to forget that if it has a disproportionate disadvantage upon women it will be unlawful unless there is no other way of achieving some legitimate aims.
For this reason employers are well advised to keep their policies under review. If suspect practices are identified they should be abandoned; or there should be set out well considered justifications for any which might disadvantage women or some other protected group. It is much easier to justify workplace practices if there was an equality audit of this time prior to any dispute arising. Had they recognised the wolf in sheep’s clothing in their midst, the employer in this case might well have avoided a very expensive Employment Tribunal case.