Discrimination in the Workplace

If you have experienced discrimination at work, our skilled and sensitive employment solicitors are on hand to help you.

We’re highly experienced in assisting clients make complaints and claim compensation for discrimination on the basis of the 9 protected characteristics under The Equality Act 2010. We can support you and help you make formal complaints, engage with internal workplace grievance procedures, go through ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) conciliation, and conduct Employment Tribunal proceedings.

Our experience means in the vast majority of cases, we’re able to negotiate a positive resolution without progressing all the way to an Employment Tribunal. Our service is efficient, professional, and above all, high quality. Our main priority is to resolve your matter with minimal disruption to your life so you can move on from what has probably been a distressing event as soon as possible.

For further information from our employment discrimination solicitors, please get in touch by giving us a call at our offices in Chelmsford or Colchester, or fill in our enquiry form for a quick response.

What our discrimination solicitors can do for you

Our team of employment solicitors specialise in all types of discrimination, whether you are facing unfair treatment because of who you are, including your sexuality, race, or disability, we’re on hand to help you access justice.

We believe that there’s no excuse for discriminatory treatment in this day and age. Even where your employer doesn’t realise what they’re doing, it’s essential to challenge discriminatory ideas and values which are often perpetuated unintentionally. 

We deeply understand how distressed and vulnerable you may feel as a result of the situation. However, we’ll stay by your side throughout the entire process, supporting you through any initial informal discussions with your employer all the way to Employment Tribunal proceedings if necessary.

Every member of our team is an expert in the area of employment law and our head of Employment Team, Alexandra Dean is a member of the Employment Lawyers Association, an organisation which promotes best practice and professional development in the area of employment law.

Our expertise ranges across a vast array of employment sectors and Alexandra is also a member of Forces Law with specialist experience advising military personnel on employment-related matters and disputes.

What is discrimination in the workplace?

You may have experienced discrimination at work if you have been treated differently or unfairly because of who you are. This could relate to a disability, your sexuality, or because you are a man or a woman.

The main law on workplace discrimination is Part 5 of the Equality Act 2010. You don’t have to personally be the target of discrimination (direct discrimination) but might be adversely affected by a policy or rule which also applies to others (indirect discrimination).

The Equality Act also covers:

  • Harassment – a form of discrimination where someone makes you feel intimidated or distressed because of a protected characteristic.
  • Victimisation – if you’ve previously complained about discrimination or helped someone who has been discriminated against and you are treated badly as a result, this is unlawful.

Under the Equality Act, there are 9 protected characteristics which are unlawful to discriminate against. These are:

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

It doesn’t matter whether the person or organisation intended to discriminate against you for it to be against the law. You can also be discriminated against “by perception” where you’re treated less favourably because someone thinks you have a protected characteristic (even if you don’t).

Proving discrimination can feel like a daunting task, particularly where it’s not obvious whether your employer is purposely behaving in a discriminatory way. You may be unsure where the discrimination has occurred, only that you’ve been disadvantaged as a result. You may also feel worried about how to approach the situation.

Our employment law solicitors have considerable experience helping clients gather evidence of discrimination and dealing directly with your employer on your behalf. We know just how to broach the initial discussions as well as being able to provide you with detailed advice about the best ways to proceed.

Examples of discrimination in the workplace

Examples of direct discrimination

Under the Equality Act 2010, direct discrimination is being treated “less favourably” because of a protected characteristic.

Examples of direct discriminating include:

  • Being fired because of a protected characteristic
  • Being overlooked for a promotion
  • Not being hired or considered for a job
  • Refusing someone training
  • Paying a person with a protected characteristic less than someone else with the same job title, job responsibilities, and ability level.

Examples of indirect discrimination

Indirect discrimination occurs when an employer has practices, policies, and/or procedures which disadvantage people with certain protected characteristics. However, it will not be discrimination if the employer can show an “objective justification” for their behaviour and that it is a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”.

Examples of indirect discrimination include:

  • Requiring all employees to travel long distances at short notice. This may indirectly discriminate against women who have young children
  • Forcing all employees to work on Sundays may indirectly discriminate against practicing Christians
  • Being forced to wear certain hairstyles at work or forbidding styles such as braids or cornrows may indirectly discriminate against some racial groups
  • An employer who only posts a job advert in men’s magazines may indirectly discriminate against women

Examples of harassment

Offending, humiliating, or intimidating employees because of a protected characteristic is harassment and illegal under the Equality Act 2010. Examples of discriminatory harassment include:

  • Abusive or suggestive comments
  • Asking intrusive, personal questions, for example, about someone’s religion or disability
  • Putting up posters condemning or making fun of protected groups
  • Making rude gestures, facial expressions or actions, for example, imitating someone with a physical disability
  • Sending abusive, offensive, or suggestive emails, letters, or notes
  • Making offensive comments on social media

Examples of victimisation

Victimisation is treating someone badly or less favourably because they made a complaint about discrimination or supported someone who made a complaint. Examples of victimisation include:

  • Bullying someone who accompanies a colleague to grievance meetings after they’ve made a formal complaint about discrimination
  • Dismissing someone for making a complaint about discrimination or supporting someone who’s made a complaint
  • Passing over someone for promotion or demoting them because they’ve made a complaint or supported someone who’s made a complaint

Disability discrimination under The Equality Act 2010

Under the Equality Act, you are considered disabled if you have a physical or mental impairment resulting in “substantial” and “long-term” adverse effects on your ability to go about everyday activities.

If you’re disabled, your employer has a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments to your working environments so that you’re not prevented from carrying out your job. These could be physical changes to the working space, allowing you to take breaks, improving access to your desk, changing your work hours, or making flexible working arrangements.

If your employer knows about your disability but doesn’t take steps to make reasonable adjustments, this can amount to discrimination.

We can provide advice about whether your employer’s failure to make reasonable adjustments is discrimination as well as helping you resolve the issue, make a formal complaint, or take the matter to an Employment Tribunal (if we cannot settle the matter informally).

Give our discrimination solicitors a call today

For further information from our employment discrimination solicitors, please get in touch by giving us a call at our offices in Chelmsford or Colchester, or fill in our enquiry form for a quick response.

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