Being denied equality or opportunities at work can be a confusing and upsetting experience. Discrimination in the workplace can emerge in many situations, from being passed over for promotion to full-blown harassment.
If you believe these things are happening to you because of your race, gender, disability, nationality, age, sexual orientation, marital status, pregnancy and maternity or religion (which are all characteristics that fall under the Equality Act 2010), then you are protected by law and you can do something about it.
Here’s everything you need to know about discrimination in the workplace, and how to deal with it…
What Is Discrimination In The Workplace?
Maybe some comments from your managers make you uncomfortable, or you feel excluded from important meetings. Maybe you’ve been denied a job or promotion and you get the feeling it’s because of your gender, race or disability. Or the unfair treatment could be to do with benefits and pay, dismissals, contracts or redundancies.
It might not be aimed at you personally – it could be a rule or policy for everyone that affects you worse than others. For example, if your company only promotes those that can work weekends and evenings this could be discrimination against women who are more likely to have childcare commitments during those times.
If a colleague is discriminating against you, they and your employer are both responsible.
The law covers direct or indirect discrimination, harassment and bullying and if your employer doesn’t make changes to help with your disability. The law also protects you from being treated unfairly because you have complained about discrimination in the past.
What You Can Do About It…
If you think you are being discriminated against because of one of the ‘protected characteristics’, you don’t have to put up with it. The first step would always be to talk to your employers and try to work it out informally. If you don’t feel comfortable talking directly to your line manager, you could try approaching your HR department. Ask for a meeting to discuss what has been happening and how it is making you feel. Discuss what you would like to change to make you feel that you are treated the same as all other employees.
If informal discussions are unfruitful, you can progress to making a formal complaint and starting grievance procedures against your employer.
If talking to your employer doesn’t help or you want support to negotiate a settlement, you can try a mediation service like ACAS or the Citizen’s Advice Bureau. If this fails, it might be time to talk to a discrimination lawyer and progress the matter to a legal claim.
It is useful in any mediation or legal proceedings to have as much ‘evidence’ as possible. You should try to gather emails and make notes of events and incidents.
There could be deadlines for starting a grievance or ACAS early conciliation, from the time the discrimination happened. Check your employee handbook and the ACAS website for further details.
Find A Discrimination Lawyer…
If you decide to proceed to a legal claim against your employer, you’ll need a specialist lawyer on your side. Employment law is complex and you’ll need someone with the skills and experience to fight your case in a tribunal. Look for someone you trust and that you feel comfortable with. They should be able to estimate your chances of success and level of compensation. To find out more about what to look for in a discrimination lawyer, read our blog here.
No-one should have to put up with discrimination in the workplace. If you believe you’ve been discriminated against and need some expert advice, get in touch with our team.