There are four forms of discrimination at work:
- Direct discrimination is less favourable treatment causing a ‘detriment’ on the prohibited grounds of: sex; race; disability; sexual orientation; religion or belief; or age. ‘Less favourable’ implies a comparator (who may be actual or hypothetical) of a different sex, race etc.
- Indirect discrimination is where an employer imposes a ‘provision, criterion or practice’ which applies equally, but adversely affects one group (eg women) more than others and cannot be justified.
- Harassment occurs where a person is subjected to unwanted conduct which violates dignity or creates a humiliating environment, on one of the prohibited grounds. No comparator is required.
- Victimisation occurs where a person suffers less favourable treatment because he or she has been involved with an earlier complaint of discrimination.
There are special provisions which put a positive duty upon employers to support disabled people by making reasonable adjustments.
A person suffering discrimination can bring a claim in the employment tribunal, generally within three months of the last ‘act complained of’. Employers are vicariously liable for the acts of their staff, unless they can show that they took reasonable steps to prevent the employee from committing discrimination. It is interesting how few (even large) employers pursue this defence.
A successful claimant is awarded net loss of earnings caused by the discrimination; and a payment for ‘injury to feelings’. The latter can be up to £33,000. There is no cap on the total sums awarded.
You should treat any grievance alleging discrimination seriously.
We are specialists in advising on how to deal with these grievances and in the law relating to discrimination at work in general. Please call us on 01483 303636.