Unfortunately, discrimination in the workplace is all too common and can have long-lasting effects on all involved. But what exactly is discrimination and what should you do if you feel that you are being discriminated against?
What Is Discrimination?
Discrimination arises when somebody, usually an employee, is treated differently from others, usually by their employer. The law states that employers may not discriminate against their staff – i.e. treat them differently – because of their age, sex, marital status, race, disability, gender, sexual orientation, religion or cultural beliefs (Protected Characteristics) or because they work part-time hours or on a fixed-term contract. There are different types of discrimination – direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation.
Direct discrimination arises when an employee is treated differently for one of the reasons stated above. For example, it would be direct discrimination to refuse to promote somebody because of their age or sex. It would also be direct discrimination to offer the position of van driver to male applicants only. Under some limited circumstances, it may be lawful to offer a position to a restricted group of applicants, for example, offering the role of a pastoral carer in a Catholic school only to people that are practising Catholics.
Indirect discrimination is where a specified rule or working condition means that a specific group of people are discriminated against, intentionally or otherwise. For example, to state that people with long hair may not apply for a position may count as discrimination, however, if the rule is in place because of genuine health and safety concerns (such as the medical profession or a kitchen job) then it may be lawful to stipulate this requirement.
Harassment also constitutes a form of discrimination and arises when the victim is made to feel humiliated or undermined as a result of somebody else’s offensive or humiliating behaviour.
Victimisation arises when somebody is penalised or treated differently because they have tried to make, or have made, a complaint, about a discrimination issue. This may include excluding them from work social events or continually ignoring them in the office.
A person should be considered (or not) for a role simply because of their skills, ability and their suitability to the position. No other factors should be taken into account if discrimination is to be avoided. If you feel that you have been a victim of discrimination in the workplace you should firstly speak to your line manager or a senior colleague. If this does not resolve the problem you should follow your company’s grievance policy regarding discrimination and if you are still not able to find a resolution you may benefit from seeking the advice of an employment lawyer.
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Fighting Discrimination In The Workplace
The decision to fight discrimination of any kind in the workplace should not be taken lightly. There are several very important factors that someone should consider before beginning the legal process. There is no question that everyone has the right to file a lawsuit for favouritism in the workplace, however, the process is time consuming and may prove to be expensive. Understanding the basics of recognising discrimination and the steps to filing a lawsuit can help in deciding whether or not this course of action is appropriate for your situation.
Many work discrimination victims experience a great deal of anxiety and even shame if they have had to endure the bigotry on a daily basis. If this anxiety becomes too great, some may be tempted to quit their job. The timing of this must be calculated properly since quitting before adeuate evidence of prejudice can be gathered would be harmful to a lawsuit. Be aware that most work discrimination victims have to quit their job in order to file a lawsuit. Remaining at the job could cause further, more serious acts of partiality. Finding a good lawyer is key to understanding the legal process and using it to your best advantage.
The first step in filing a lawsuit does not begin in a courtroom, it begins at work. Report any acts of discrimination to your company’s reporting system. This gives your employer the chance to step in and handle the inequity before it becomes more serious. Report even small occurrences of prejudice so that the company record will accurately show the magnitude of the discrimination that you have to face at work. Don’t forget that there are often time limits for reporting discrimination. Be sure to consult your company handbook for the rules and guidelines of your specific place of work.
In a workplace discrimination lawsuit, there must be direct evidence that you have been passed over for someone else based on something other than merit. Save any evidence that you may have that could help you in filing a lawsuit. This includes any notes, letters, memos, or emails that show that you are a victim of bigotry.
If you have followed the appropriate steps that need to be taken before you file a work discrimination lawsuit, finding an experienced attorney is the next step. A licensed attorney has the skills to be able to evaluate your situation and advise you if filing a lawsuit would be worth your time and effort. Everyone has the right to fight for their rights if they are being discriminated against at work. Following these crucial steps before filing a lawsuit can help you save time and money as you decide whether or not a lawsuit is the right choice for you.
We also discuss employment discrimination in our article; Have You Been Discriminated Against?