What if I've been discriminated against?
Despite laws aimed at stamping it out, discrimination is still common in the workplace. The laws aim to prevent you being unfairly discriminated against because of your sex (including if you are transgender), marital status, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief, or age. You are protected whether you work full-time, part-time or fixed term.
Generally it is also against the law to discriminate in the recruitment process.
Under the law, there are several types of discrimination by an employer:
Direct discrimination: This is when you are treated less favourably because of your race, sex (including if you are transgender), marital status (including if you are in a civil partnership), disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief, or age -- for example, if you are refused a job or promotion because you are a woman, of Asian background or disabled.
Indirect discrimination: This is when an employer imposes a condition of employment which applies to everyone but disadvantages a particular group of people (for example, people of a particular religion or sex).
An example of indirect discrimination against a religion would be an employer asking all employees (including one who is a Sikh) to wear safety helmets at work without good reason (for example, in an office). A Sikh who wears a turban for religious reasons could say he had been discriminated against if he had to agree to wear the helmet to get the job, and the need to wear the helmet was not justified.
An example of indirect sex discrimination would be an employer saying they will employ only people who are at least six feet tall, without having a good reason for a height requirement. This is discrimination because fewer women than men are over six feet tall.
Groups protected from indirect discrimination in the UK are married people; civil partners; and any groups defined by their sex, race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin, religion, belief, sexual orientation or age.
Harassment is any type of behaviour that makes you feel under threat or degraded. It includes unwanted verbal, non-verbal and physical conduct. Behaviour that makes a work environment intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive is also harassment.
Employers must by law protect you from this sort of harassment at work and, in some cases, from people outside of work such as clients or customers.
If you are harassed at work, you can bring a claim against both your employer and the person who has harassed you.
You can bring a claim for victimisation if you are cold-shouldered, disciplined or dismissed for:
- bringing proceedings or making allegations of discrimination; or
- being a witness in tribunal or disciplinary proceedings.
You can still be discriminated against even after you have left a job, for example if your employer gives you a poor reference after you have complained about how they had treated you.
The Disability Discrimination Act defines what disability discrimination is, and when an employer can justify treating disabled employees less favourably than employees who are not disabled. The Act does not distinguish between direct and indirect discrimination. For more on this go to the Disabled People homepage of the government’s GOV website.
If you think you have been discriminated against or you have been dismissed for a discriminatory reason, you can take your case to the employment tribunal. You need to send a claim form to the tribunal. You must act quickly as you only have three months less one day in which to bring a claim.
If your claim succeeds, the tribunal can order the employer to pay you compensation. There is no limit to the amount of compensation you can be awarded.
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Further help with employment law
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