EAT Upholds Decision in D Martin v St Francis Xavier College, Highlighting Key Legal Principles in Race Discrimination Cases

Citation: [2024] EAT 22
Judgment on


In the case of D Martin v The Board of Governors of St Francis Xavier 6th Form College, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) delivers a comprehensive judgment, encapsulating critical legal principles pertinent to employment law. The EAT addresses issues surrounding race discrimination, the use of comparators in discrimination cases, the burden of proof, and constructive dismissal. This article meticulously analyses the EAT’s judgment, aligning the legal principles applied within the case to the specific parts of the provided case summary, thereby elucidating the rationale behind the EAT’s decisions.

Key Facts

Mr. D Martin, employed by St Francis Xavier College, alleged direct race discrimination and constructive unfair dismissal. His claims were rooted in a disciplinary process he underwent after being late on a critical examination day, and subsequent action taken by the Respondent. Martin compared his treatment to that of two other employees (Spindler and McQuitty), asserting less favorable treatment due to his race. The ET initially rejected these claims, and Martin appealed, contending the Tribunal’s analysis of comparators was flawed and there were errors in applying the legal burden of proof.

Comparators in Discrimination Cases

One of the pivotal legal principles scrutinized in this case is the employment of comparators in direct discrimination claims under section 23 of the Equality Act 2010 (EqA). The judgment explicates actual (statutory), evidential, and hypothetical comparators, emphasizing that the comparator’s purpose is an evidential tool to assess discrimination claims. Actual comparators need not be identical but must have ‘no material difference’ in circumstances. Similarly, the judgment elucidates how evidential comparators can be used to draw inferences of discrimination, while Shamoon v Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary is referred to, emphasizing the importance of comparators not being materially different in circumstances for inferential value.

Burden of Proof

The judgment reinforces section 136 of the EqA, stipulating the ‘shifting burden of proof’ mechanism in discrimination cases. The principle demands the claimant to establish prima facie evidence, upon which the burden shifts to the defendant to prove that discrimination did not occur. The EAT harks back to pertinent authorities, notably Madarassy and Laing, stressing that the evidence of actual comparators affects the extent to which the burden of proof shifts.

Constructive Dismissal

Additionally, the judgment encapsulates principles around constructive dismissal, underscoring that a claimant must demonstrate a repudiatory breach of the employment contract. The EAT elucidates that a series of acts by the employer, rather than individual actions, may cumulatively violate the implied term of trust and confidence essential to the employment relationship.


The EAT upheld the Tribunal’s decision and dismissed Martin’s appeal on all grounds, articulating robust reasons to substantiate its conclusions. It agreed with the Tribunal that there was no misdirected law, the decision was not perverse, and adequate reasons were given. The EAT found that the Tribunal had correctly identified White as an actual comparator and had not misconstrued the circumstances surrounding Spindler and McQuitty. Moreover, it validated the Tribunal’s application of the section 136 burden of proof. Finally, it also agreed that the procedural flaws identified did not amount to constructive dismissal.


The EAT judgment in D Martin v The Board of Governors of St Francis Xavier 6th Form College serves as a significant illustration of the approach to be taken in assessing comparators and the application of the burden of proof in race discrimination cases. It underscores the necessity for an empirical examination of circumstances surrounding comparators and affirms the procedural steadfastness required in employment disputes. Furthermore, it ratifies the stringent standards needed to ascertain a claim of constructive dismissal. This judgment acts as a quintessential guide for legal professionals navigating the complexities of discrimination claims within the UK employment law framework.