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Supreme Court finds illegality does not stop discrimination claim

1 August 2014

Mary Hounga entered the UK dishonestly on a visitor’s visa, with no right to work in this country. She was subjected to violence by her employer and subsequently brought a claim of race discrimination. At the Court of Appeal, it was found that the illegality of the contract of employment formed a material part of her complaint. To uphold it would condone the illegality, which was against public policy.

The Court of Appeal judgment was overturned by the Supreme Court which decided that the illegality did not defeat the claim and that the UK’s obligation to protect victims of human trafficking meant that it should proceed.

This decision will be welcomed by many, as a contrary outcome would have encouraged disreputable employers to enter into illegal contracts in the belief that they can discriminate with impunity.

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