Your employment takes up the majority of your time, so when something goes wrong, it can also have an impact on every aspect of your life. If you suspect you are being discriminated against at work, the first port of call should be to check. It may be against the law if you are being treated differently or unfairly in the workplace because of a particular trait you possess.

You can also be discriminated against indirectly. An example of this is when a policy is in place which puts you, and people like you, at a disadvantage compared to others.

In order to assist employees in understanding discrimination law, I have highlighted 5 things that all employees need to know about workplace discrimination.

1.    Protected characteristics

You can only be discriminated against if the treatment is related in some way to one of the protected characteristics. If the reason you are being bullied at work is simply because the bully does not like you, this is not classed as discrimination.

The law states that there are 9 protected characteristics, which are:

  • Marriage or civil partnerships
  • Age
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or beliefs
  • Gender reassignment
  • Disability
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

You can also be discriminated against if someone assumes you have a protected characteristic, or if you are associated with someone else who has a protected characteristic, or even if you have challenged discriminatory behaviour before.

2.    Type of Discrimination

To take further action, firstly you must figure out which type of discrimination you have experienced. There are a number of ways you can be discriminated against, so it is important to seek early advice to ensure that you know exactly which type applies to your circumstances.

For example, if a colleague makes a derogatory remark about your protected characteristic, this could be harassment. Another example is if you are a woman, and you are consistently rejected for promotions in favour of male colleagues, then this could be direct discrimination.

3.    Evidencing discrimination

If your matter gets to a tribunal, you will need to be able to evidence that what you say has indeed happened.

Evidence can be anything; for example documents, letters, social media messages, or could even be a witness in the workplace who could back up your compliant.

Think about the situations which have taken place and make a note of them at the time. If you decide to take legal action, notes from the time of the incident can help keep memories fresh and can also back up your witness statement and so strengthening your case.

Compile this information and events which took place in chronological order; with dates, names and any internal policies your workplace has on discrimination.

4.    How to resolve it within the company

If you want to keep working with the employer, it is best to try and resolve the issue informally first. Going in with ‘guns blazing’ can lead to disagreements and make your working life unbearable.

If it cannot be resolved informally, the next step could be to raise a formal written grievance. Once this is raised, your employer has an obligation to deal with the grievance in a fair and balanced manner. To not do so could give rise to further claims.

5.    What to do if you cant

If you have tried to resolve the matter internally, both formally and informally, then it could leave you with no choice other than to take legal action.

There are several routes you could wish to take, which could include mediation, making a claim to the employment tribunal, or negotiating an exit from the business. We will be able to advise you on the best route for you, taking into consideration your aims and objectives.

Discrimination law is an extremely complex area of law. Therefore, if you believe you have been a victim of discrimination in the workplace, it is important that you seek legal expertise as soon as possible.

Should you have any queries or questions, contact myself Yunus Lunat directly 0113 284 5023 or alternatively by email Yunus has over 15 years’ experience in employment law and has a particular interest and expertise in discrimination cases and equality and diversity.

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