Workplace discrimination can be very obvious or more subtle, but either way it can be hugely damaging to your career and wellbeing. It is not always easy to know if you have been discriminated against or what you can do about it, so it is essential to seek expert advice from an experienced employment lawyer.
Unlike some employment rights, workplace discrimination claims are not dependent on being an employee or upon length of service. This means you have the right not to suffer discrimination of any kind from the very day that you apply for a job.
If you believe that you have suffered discrimination by your employer, a co-worker or other third parties at work, you may need to raise a grievance with your employer before you bring a claim. If you are thinking of doing this, you should take legal advice first.
The employer must not treat you badly because you have raised a grievance. If they do this, you will probably have a claim against them for victimisation as well.
Remember, there are very strict time limits for making claims in the employment tribunal and these can be as short as within 3 months, so you should seek legal advice as soon as possible.
Looking for more information about discrimination claims? Please take a look at our discrimination in the workplace FAQs.
Our employment discrimination lawyers can assist with…
- Direct discrimination
- Indirect discrimination
- Employers’ responsibility to make reasonable adjustments
- Discrimination Arising from Disability (DAFD)
Our employment law expertise
Our Employment team advise Senior Executives and other high level employees on a wide range of matters, including workplace discrimination claims. We are based in Orpington and work with clients in London, Kent and across the South East.
We can also advise employers on dealing with workplace discrimination claims and employment tribunals matters.
We are ranked for Employment Law by leading legal directories Chambers & Partners and the Legal 500. Additionally, members of our Employment law team have had their expertise independently recognised in the following ways:
- Membership of the Employment Lawyers Association (ELA)
- Associate membership and affiliate memberships of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development
- Associate to Watch in leading legal directory, Chambers & Partners
Our employment discrimination solicitors’ fees
Our pricing reflects the high level expertise and value we deliver for clients. We can provide a clear cost estimate at the outset, with no hidden fees or charges.
Where requested, we may be able to act on a fixed fee basis for initial advice. We can also represent you at an hourly rate.
Discrimination in the Workplace FAQs
What is the Equality Act 2010?
In October 2010, the Equality Act 2010 brought all existing equality and discrimination legislation together to harmonise and strengthen the existing law in this area.
The aim of the Equality Act is to ensure fair treatment for all, whether at work, or when using goods, facilities or services. All aspects of the employment relationship are protected – ranging from recruitment, promotions, transfers and training through to dismissals and even the provision of references.
What is a protected characteristic?
Discrimination may be directed towards people because of the following nine “protected characteristics”:
- Gender reassignment
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Sexual orientation
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Religion or belief
What is discrimination at work?
There are various types of unlawful discrimination for which you may be able to make a workplace discrimination claim:
This means treating a person less fairly or less favourably than someone else because of a protected characteristic. As a general rule, direct discrimination cannot be justified and is therefore almost always going to be unlawful.
This means putting in place a rule, practice or way of doing things that has the effect of disadvantaging people who possess a particular protected characteristic.
Unlike most types of direct discrimination, indirect discrimination is only unlawful if it cannot be objectively justified. To justify it, there must be a legitimate need/aim for the rule and the rule must be necessary to achieve that aim. There must also be no suitable alternative.
This means unwanted conduct relating to a protected characteristic that has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for someone or violating their dignity.
This means treating someone less favourably because they have complained about discrimination or supported someone else who has. Victimisation also occurs where one person treats another badly because they are suspected of having done this or of intending to do so.
What are reasonable adjustments?
The law recognises that achieving equality for disabled people may mean removing, reducing or preventing the obstacles a disabled person might face. For example, an employer may be expected to make changes to work patterns, modify work equipment or provide extra supervision, training or support.
This is called the duty to make reasonable adjustments.
If an employer knows that a particular employee or job applicant is disabled and is likely to suffer a disadvantage due to workplace policies, practices or features, the employer is under a proactive duty to make reasonable adjustments to alleviate that disadvantage.
Failure to make a reasonable adjustment can never be justified and may be grounds for a workplace discrimination claim.
What is Discrimination Arising from Disability (DAFD)?
It is unlawful to unjustifiably treat a disabled person less favourably because of something arising in consequence of their disability.
For example, a worker is off sick for 6 months suffering from clinical depression. It would be unlawful DAFD to dismiss this worker because of their sickness absence.
The employer would only be able to defend this claim if they could show that the dismissal was objectively justified.
As with the duty to make reasonable adjustments, the employer must know (or be reasonably expected to know) about the disability for there to be unlawful DAFD.
How can employers use your answers to a pre-employment health questionnaire?
Before an employer offers someone a job, they cannot ask blanket questions regarding health and disability. Asking the question itself is not unlawful, but if the employer acts on the answer, for example by not offering the job or offering less beneficial terms to that particular applicant, it may be.
Once a person has passed the interview stage, the employer can ask them what they like, within reason, but they still need to be careful how they use that information or they may face discrimination claims.
So, until a job offer has been made, the employer can only ask an applicant health questions in very specific circumstances to:
- Decide whether to make reasonable adjustments for the selection process
- Ensure that the applicant can carry out functions intrinsic to the job
- Monitor diversity
- Take positive action to assist disabled people
What is the time limit for discrimination claims?
For workplace discrimination claims, the time limit to start a claim is generally 3 months less one day from the time the discrimination or less favourable treatment occurred.
Understanding the time limit for discrimination claims is not always straightforward, so please do not hesitate to contact our team for clear advice on your right to claim.
What is the difference between direct and indirect discrimination?
As covered above, direct discrimination is where someone is treated less fairly or less favourably because of a protected characteristic, whereas indirect discrimination is where an employer puts in place a rule, practice or way of doing things that disadvantages a group with a particular protected characteristic.
Workplace discrimination case studies
Disputed redundancy claim for senior executive involving sex discrimination
Our employment lawyers advised a senior executive and member of the executive committee of a national organisation in a disputed redundancy claim including claims of unfair dismissal, sex discrimination, bullying and harassment. We negotiated a settlement in the region of £100,000.
Speak to our employment discrimination lawyers in Orpington, Kent
If you believe that you have suffered discrimination as part of an application process, at work or upon termination and would like to speak to one of our specialist solicitors for further advice, please contact our Employment team on 01689 887840.