It is illegal to treat someone unfairly because of their personal circumstances, this includes bullying, harassment or simply failing to make reasonable adjustments for them. The Equality Act 2010 strengthened the laws which protect individuals from unreasonable treatment and ensure everyone is valued equally, including at work.
There are nine specific areas (known as protected characteristics) covered by equality and diversity laws and guidelines:
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
The changes to the law also mean there are now more workplace situations that are discriminatory, such as:
- Direct discrimination – where a person is discriminated against due to one or more protected characteristics, for example a female candidate for a job does not get an interview but a male with less experience does (sometimes an employer might state an occupational requirement in defence)
- Discrimination by association – where a person is associated with someone with a protected characteristic, for example a mother who has given birth to a disabled child returns from maternity leave and applies for promotion, but the job is given to someone less qualified as the employer thinks the mother will need more time off and be less reliable because of her child’s special needs
- Discrimination due to a perceived characteristic – where someone thinks a person has a protected characteristic but they do not, for example a man looks older than his actual age and is not given a role which involves heavy lifting as the employer believes he is ‘too old’ to do physical work
- Harassment – this now includes failing to prevent the harassment of an employee by a third party, for example if a shop manager overhears a customer make repeated racist remarks to one of their shop assistants and does not do anything about it
- Victimisation – this now includes when someone is treated less favourably having made a discrimination claim or has supported someone else to make one, for example if a person has successfully complained that their manager has made unfair comments made about their sexuality, but are then ignored by that manager or other other staff they could claim victimisation
It doesn’t matter how long you have been in a job, you can claim for discrimination at any time, and there is no financial limit for compensation. If you would like to talk to someone about your situation please get in touch. Our specialist team has experience in both managing and defending discrimination cases. We know this is a sensitive area of law and work carefully and compassionately, with employers and employees, to bring a successful and satisfactory conclusion to these types of disputes.
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The EAT (Employment Appeal Tribunal) emphasised that it’s fact specific when it comes to assessing an employee’s alleged unfavourable treatment and the causes in relation to their treatment.