Brewdog’s ‘Beer for Girls’ campaign was launched in March 2018, ahead of International Women’s Day, offering a 20% discount on Pink IPA drinks sold to individuals who identified as female.
The intention of Brewdog’s campaign was to expose sexist marketing practices within the beer industry by providing women with a discount mirroring the national gender pay gap. However, a male customer, Dr Thomas Bower, was refused to be served a Pink IPA for the discounted price of £4 (as opposed to £5) at a Cardiff bar on the basis that he was a man. Following an argument between Dr Bower and the bartender, he had to identify himself as a female in order to purchase the drink at the discounted price. Following the incident, he made a complaint against Brewdog claiming he was directly discriminated against because of his sex, contrary to the Equality Act 2010.
In legal proceedings, Brewdog argued that this discount policy did not amount to any form of direct discrimination because the price difference was promoted in conjunction with a wider national campaign to raise awareness about gender inequality.
Dr Bower has this week successfully claimed for damages for direct discrimination in the Cardiff County Court. District Judge Phillips found that ‘it is clear that in this case the claimant has been directly discriminated against by the defendant because of his sex’ and awarded him £1,000 for injuries to feelings.
The law in these situations is clear: if someone of one sex is treated less favourably than someone of the other sex because of gender, then it will amount to direct sex discrimination which cannot be justified. Dr Bower was treated less favourably by being denied the discount because he was a man and had to identify as a different sex to obtain it, in contrast to a female customer who would not have to identify as a man to obtain the discount. Even though Brewdog may have had good intentions for its campaign and discount, such direct discrimination cannot ever be justified in law.
The case serves a useful reminder to businesses and employers that the motive and reason for any sex discrimination is irrelevant: if the practice is discriminatory, it is unlawful.