In Pendleton v Derby County Council the couple in question were employed by different schools, but Mrs Pendleton found herself being dismissed for refusing to end her relationship with her husband, the headteacher of another local school, after he was convicted of making indecent images of children and voyeurism and sentenced to 10 months in prison. There was no suggestion that Mrs Pendleton knew anything of these matters before her husband's arrest.
Mrs Pendleton brought claims of unfair dismissal and indirect religious discrimination to the employment tribunal. The tribunal found that the Respondent had failed to demonstrate that the dismissal was for either gross misconduct or some other substantial reason and that there were a significant number of procedural errors made.
Mrs Pendleton also argued that she believed her marriage vows were sacrosanct having been made to god and being an expression of her religion. The Tribunal accepted this and that the Respondent had applied a PCP (provision, criteria or practice) in the form of a policy of dismissing those who chose not to end a relationship with a person convicted of the sort of charges faced by Mr Pendleton. This claim for religious discrimination failed however because Mrs Pendleton failed to show that she had been at a particular disadvantage as they found she would have been dismissed irrespective of her religious belief in the sanctity of marriage vows. The Tribunal did say though that had she been able to prove the disadvantage they would have upheld her claim as the Respondent had failed to adduce evidence to support that the dismissal was a proportionate way of meeting the legitimate aim of protecting and safeguarding school children.
Mrs Pendleton appealed the decision that there was no particular disadvantage and the Respondent cross appealed the finding relating to religious discrimination.
The EAT dismissed the cross appeal, but upheld Mrs Pendleton's appeal regarding whether she had been at a particular disadvantage. The EAT held that someone in Mrs Pendleton's position (being in a longstanding and committed relationship with someone found to have committed the offences in question and being faced with the choice of continuing the relationship or their career) would feel under pressure by the application of the policy to act in a way contrary to their religious belief in the sanctity of marriage vows. As such Mrs Pendleton was at a disadvantage, and the fact that others in a similar situation would also be at a disadvantage did not prevent there being a particular disadvantage for Mrs Pendleton and those sharing her belief. On this basis the judgement of the Tribunal on this point was set aside and a finding made that the indirect discrimination claim had been made out.