Discrimination in the workplace

When you go to work, there are certain things you should be able to take for granted. The most obvious, of course, is that you'll receive a wage in return for the work you do. Additionally however, lies expectations that the environment in which you work is safe, and that you should be treated in a manner which is respectful and free from discrimination at all times. You should never be discriminated against on the basis of gender, age, physical ability or race.

Indeed, these rights are considered so vital they have been enshrined in law, in the form of the Age Discrimination Act, the Race Discrimination Act, The Sex Discrimination Act and the Disability Discrimination Act. The situation governing the administration of these laws was simplified in 2007, when the bodies responsible - the Commission for Racial Equality, the Disability Rights Commission and the Equal Opportunities Commission - merged to become the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The presence of these laws, and the ways in which they can be applied to discrimination in the workplace, mean that anyone who feels they have been treated less than fairly may well be in a position to seek compensation.

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The following is a brief description of the acts themselves, and the protection each affords:

The Sex Discrimination Act

The Sex Discrimination Act was put together in order to protect both men and women from discrimination based upon gender. While the assumption, and often the reality, is that women require more protection from discrimination than men, the laws are framed in such a way that they can be applied equally to both. This should be borne in mind when reading this summary.

Discrimination can broadly be divided into two main types - Direct and Indirect. Direct discrimination consists of situations such as those when an experienced woman is passed over for a job in favour of a less experienced man, purely on the grounds of gender. Indirect discrimination is slightly less obvious in nature, but covers situations such as a man, or woman being expected to work outside their actual capabilities in order to fit in with the working practices of other, oppositely gendered staff.

To summarise, the Sex Discriminations Act prohibits the following:

  • Discrimination against a person on the grounds of their sex.
  • Discrimination against a person on the grounds that they are married or have a civil partner.
  • Discrimination against a person who has had, is having, or intends to have gender reassignment.
  • Discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy or maternity leave.
  • Harassment which is sexual, or related to a person's gender.

Although the act deals with gender, and therefore doesn't specifically mention discrimination based upon a person's sexual orientation, there are still circumstances relating to such discrimination which may make it possible for the act to be called upon. If you feel you have basis for making a claim, get in touch with an experienced solicitor. They will note the details of your case, and give an honest opinion as to whether the legislation means you can successfully pursue compensation.

The Race Relations Act

The Race Relations Act was drawn up to protect people at work from discrimination on the grounds of their ethnicity, nationality or skin colour, and also covers discrimination on the grounds of religious beliefs. The definitions of discrimination used are similar to those employed when drawing up other discrimination cases, i.e.:

  • Direct discrimination, such as refusing to hire a person on the grounds of race.
  • Indirect discrimination, such as enforcing dress codes which clash with a person's religious beliefs.
  • Harassment along the lines of allowing racially offensive conversation in the workplace.
  • A person being victimised on the grounds of their race, or following previous complaints around racial issues.

Issues regarding race and racial discrimination are often contentious and difficult to pin down. It may be, for example, that a white British person feels they have been discriminated against precisely because they represent part of the workforce majority. If you feel you may have been racially discriminated against at work, you should relate the details of your case to an expert solicitor. They will use their knowledge and experience to decide whether you're in a position to make a claim and - if you are - they'll help to construct your claim.

The Age Discrimination Act

The Age Discrimination Act works in a similar manner to the law governing gender discrimination, with questions of age replacing those of gender. Under the act, it is unlawful to use a person's age as the grounds for doing any of the following:

  • Refusing a person employment.
  • Terminating employment on the grounds of age (outside of retirement).
  • Refusing to provide training.
  • Deny an employee the chance to secure a promotion.
  • Insert unfair terms and conditions into a contract.

When considering these laws, people tend to focus on older people being discriminated against. However, the act is equally applicable in the case of a younger person who feels they have been unfairly treated on the grounds they were deemed to lack gravitas, or experience. If you feel you may have experienced either end of this spectrum, then waste no time in getting in touch with an experience solicitor. They'll be able to take the details of your case and place them in the context of the law, thus explaining whether you have a good chance of securing compensation, and the mechanics involved.

The Disability Discrimination Act

The rights contained in this act, which were last expanded and updated in 2005, extend somewhat further than those in the other acts detailed, to cover the following fields:

  • Employment: A disabled person cannot be refused employment on the grounds of their disability, unless that disability actually stops them performing the job.
  • Education: The parts of the act which cover education apply to both children and adults. In both cases the act seeks to ensure disabled people get the same access to educational opportunities as the able bodied.
  • Education: This extends not only to the rights of disabled children to the same level of education as non-disabled children, but also to disabled adults wishing to further their education.
  • Access: The act seeks to ensure disabled people are granted full access to goods, facilities and services such as stores, banks, cinemas, churches and public transport.

The disabilities in question can be physical and/or mental. While great strides have been made in recent years, negligence and discrimination can still occur, and when they do it's only right to pursue compensation to make up for your distress and any lost earnings.

Getting compensation for Workplace Discrimination

Reading through these various laws, it's apparent that you don't have to actually be employed by a person or business to suffer discrimination in the workplace, since choosing not to give you a job can, in some circumstances, be an example of discrimination. If you've been treated in this manner then it's only fair that you should be able to seek compensation, not only for any earnings you may have lost, but also to help counter the unfair treatment you've received. Clearly, no amount of money can truly make up for this kind of disgraceful treatment, but it can play a part in helping to restore your faith in fairness and justice.

The key to winning such a claim lies in putting together a case which convincingly portrays the thought processes of the employer in question. Doing this effectively requires skill, experience and in-depth knowledge of the appropriate legislation. It's vital therefore, that those who feel discriminated against retain the services of a professional solicitor at the earliest possible opportunity.

Call us today on 0808 115 0700 and speak to one of our trained advisers. They'll take your details and give you an honest appraisal of your case, and your chances of a successful claim. If we feel you've got a good chance of winning compensation, we'll fight your case on a no win no fee basis, meaning you'll get to keep all of the awarded recompense, as you so richly deserve.

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