Black Lives Matter to Spark Rise in Race Discrimination Claims

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, sex discrimination claims in the U.K. climbed to a five-year high. Now, law firms and corporations alike are expecting a similar jump in race discrimination lawsuits fueled by the Black Lives Matter movement.

Visits to the race discrimination web page on the government’s mediation service known as ACAS, have more than doubled since May, while attorneys have seen a similar surge in inquiries. Getting an ACAS number is a crucial first step in an employment tribunal claim.

The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May sparked mass protests around the world, with the movement jumping from the streets to the workplace. The rise in public consciousness mirrors the moment in 2017 when revelations of sexual harassment in Hollywood ignited a global conversation around the treatment of women.

“This is analogous to #MeToo when we saw an up-tick in sex discrimination and harassment cases,” said Simon Kerr-Davis, an employment lawyer at Linklaters. “Now we’re expecting something similar, this time with race.”

Black Lives Matter to Spark Rise in Race Discrimination Claims

The Black Lives Matter movement has empowered many people to share their experiences of racism and discrimination. This week a former broker at TP ICAP Plc’s Tullett Prebon told how he felt racially targeted and was regularly belittled by managers on his London desk.

One potential client specifically cited the Black Lives Matter movement as the reason why they wanted to come forward, said Danielle Parsons, an employment lawyer at Slater and Gordon.

“BLM has meant employees now feel more empowered to speak up and take action,” she said.

Meanwhile employment law firm Irwin Mitchell has seen inquiries about race discrimination have doubled since May 25, compared to the three-month period before the Black Lives Matter protests, according to Shazia Khan, a partner at the firm.

The spike comes amid a broader increase in claims each year with total employment tribunal race lawsuits climbing 56% in 2018-19 from a year earlier, according to ACAS data.

It was a similar story for women nearly three years ago when revelations about movie mogul Harvey Weinstein triggered a wave of people coming forward with their own tales of sexual harassment.

The Covid-19 pandemic adds another dynamic.

With the virus forcing people to work from home, many feel safer to speak up, Kerr-Davis said.

“People have time to reflect, making people perhaps slightly braver and more willing to speak out than in their workplace,” he said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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