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Being a victim of discrimination within your workplace can evoke many feelings, including ones of humiliation, shame and anger. It is important to know that if you are subject to workplace discrimination there are legal avenues you can pursue in order to make those who have discriminated against you accountable for their actions.
Likewise, if you are an employer being accused of discrimination you will require strong legal advice and representation in order to protect your best interest and your professional reputation.
Our highly experienced employment team can provide all this and more at a competitive rate.
The Equality Act 2010
The Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination in employment when discrimination is based on nine protected characteristics. Protection from discrimination includes discrimination as a result of being associated with someone who has a protected characteristic. Victimisation of people who have complained about or supported a claim of harassment or discrimination is also prohibited under the Act.
The protected characteristics are:
- Transitioning or being a transsexual person;
- Marital Status;
- Sexual Orientation;
- Race and Nationality; and
- Being a parent or pregnant.
Types of discrimination
Discrimination can take many forms, it can be obvious and blunt or it can be insidious, whittling away at the victims self-esteem over a long period of time.
Direct discrimination is explicitly treating those with a protected characteristic differently, while indirect discrimination is when the function of rules or policies unfairly target one class of people who have a protected characteristic; for example if a company operates a policy that prevents religious observation in practice.
Discrimination also includes harassment or unwanted behaviour that is caused by a person’s protected characteristic, for example sexual harassment. Another example is disability; if disability is at issue the employer should make efforts to accommodate the employee’s disability including any accessibility issues.
The occupational requirement exception
Discrimination at work can manifest in different ways including discrepancy between comparable positions in terms of pay or benefits, employment terms, recruitment and promotion. However in some cases discrimination may be allowable if the grounds for discrimination are integral to the organisation, also known as the occupational requirement exception – for example a religious gender requirement.
For an employer to come under an occupational requirement exception they must show:
- That the requirement is not a sham, and that there is a direct link to the occupation;
- That there is a good reason for the requirement; and
- That the requirement is the best way to satisfy the reason.
However an occupational requirement exception cannot be used to justify discrimination in pay or benefits, only in recruiting, promotion and training or dismissal.
Positive discrimination or positive action is not unlawful. Positive action refers to the process of giving preferential treatment to individuals in minority groups who suffer discrimination, typically in employment cases. This does not mean that the favoured minority group will automatically have the right of preference, but rather it means that if two groups are at a similar playing field, the minority may be favoured over the other. An example is if two people were competing for a particular position, positive discrimination would result in the minority group being favoured.
What to do if you feel that you have been discriminated against
If you feel that you have been discriminated against at work there are options to provide redress. The least formal and most cost-effective option is to schedule a meeting with your employer, with or without representation, to lay out your perception of events and discuss options to resolve the situation.
More formal options include reporting your employer to the Equality and human rights Commission. You may also lodge a claim in the Employment Tribunal for discrimination; the tribunal can award you compensation for injury to feelings or financial loss. Awards for injury to feelings can range up to £30,000 in the Employment Tribunal.
If you believe that you have been discriminated against at work you may be entitled to compensation, please contact OTS Solicitors to find out more information on 0203 959 9123.
For a more detailed discussion regarding your case, or to book an appointment with a member of our Employment Law team, please call us now on 0203 959 9123