How does employment law protect me from discrimination in the workplace?
BY Contact Law
There were various statutes under employment law which protect employees against discrimination in the workplace – The Equality Act 2010 now applicable. These Acts mean laws exists to prevent behaviour which puts a person, or group of people, at a disadvantage at work. Thus, employment law prohibits discrimination, which can be described as treating a person or group of people in a ‘less favourable’ manner than others.
More specifically, under employment law, employers are not allowed to discriminate against an employee for a wide range of reasons, including: age; race; religion or belief; gender re-assignment; gender; disability; marriage or civil partnership; ethnicity; or nationality.
Discrimination in the workplace can be direct or indirect. Direct discrimination occurs when an employer treats an employee or group of employees less favourably because of one of the above reasons. For example, direct discrimination would occur if an employer refused to promote you because of your gender or your racial group.
Indirect discrimination is less obvious discrimination. It occurs when a practice or rule disadvantages one group of employees disproportionately. The rule or practice may not be intended to discriminate against that group; however, indirect discrimination is unlawful whether or not it was intentional. For example, if a company applies a blanket ‘no headwear’ policy to all employees because hats or caps do not fit the company image; then this may disadvantage a Sikh employee, who is required to wear a turban for religious reasons.
Employment law can also protect you from the form of discrimination known as harassment. Harassment can be described as offensive or intimidating behaviour, such as homophobic language or racial abuse. For example, if another worker addresses you, using an offensive nickname, this could be interpreted as harassment.
In addition, it is unlawful to victimise employees in the workplace. Victimisation means that you are treated less favourably than other workers because you want to make, or have made, a complaint about discrimination. For example, victimisation could include being excluded from company events.
If you think you have suffered discrimination in the workplace, you should consult an employment solicitor without delay, as there is a three-month time-limitation for bringing a claim before an Employment Tribunal. Your employment solicitor can give you legal advice about your options, including claiming for constructive dismissal.