Raworths LLP
Discrimination Discrimination



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Allegations of discrimination are a problem many employers face at one time or another. Employment law protects employees where discrimination or harassment has taken place in relation to a person’s sex, gender reassignment, marriage (or civil partnership), pregnancy or maternity leave, race (including ethnic or national origin, nationality and colour), disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief, or age.  These are known as ‘protected characteristics’.

Unlike claims of unfair dismissal employees don’t need to have worked for their employer for a minimum period in order to bring a discrimination/harassment claim. There is also no limit to the amount of compensation that can be awarded where someone brings a successful claim of discrimination/harassment.  As a result, employees can bring discrimination claims when they’re unable to bring claims of unfair dismissal.

Types of discrimination

Acts of discrimination are not limited to people making overtly discriminatory comments. In fact, it’s rare that this occurs.  Discrimination claims include claims that employers have policies that discriminate against a certain type of employee because they have a disproportionately adverse effect on them.  Employers can also face claims that they have failed to make reasonable adjustments to assist disabled employees in carrying out their duties.

Our Harrogate based team of specialist employment solicitors have helped employers avoid and/or defend all types of discrimination claims including:

  • Direct discrimination. For example, where employees claim:
    • they haven’t been promoted because of their race;
    • they were dismissed because they were pregnant;
    • they were unsuccessful in a job application because of their age.
  • Indirect discrimination. For example, where employees claim that:
    • there’s a requirement that they are available to work on a Sunday which effects them disproportionately because they are a practising Christian;
    • a contractual clause requiring employees to travel abroad at short notice discriminates against women, because they are more likely to have childcare responsibilities.
  • the employer has failed to make reasonable adjustments in respect of their disability.

If an employment tribunal accepts that an employer has indirectly discriminated, it is still possible to argue that the policy/requirement was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. So, using one of the examples above, justification for requiring Sunday working might be that the business is open seven days a week and has a history of struggling to get employees to work on Sundays.

  • Harassment. For example, where an employee claims someone has acted in an inappropriate way towards them because of a protected characteristic and that behaviour has violated their dignity or created an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them. Examples include:
    • making sexist/racist jokes; and
    • avoiding someone because of their religion or because they are homosexual
  • Victimisation. For example, where an employee or job applicant claims they have suffered a detriment as a result of performing a protected act. Examples include:
    • bullying resulting from complaining about harassment; and
    • refusing to employ someone who gave evidence against a former employer.

How can we help?

Our team of employment solicitors have vast experience of helping employers defend all types of discrimination claims and helping employers manage and spot risks ahead of time. If you have a question, or require advice for your business, give us a call and we will guide you through the problem.

The law states that an employer may not be liable for acts of discrimination if it can show that it has an anti-discrimination policy and has trained its staff. As part of our service, we can provide your business with comprehensive anti-discrimination training to managers and other members of your staff.  The training can be provided at our Harrogate office or at an alternative venue to suit you (and subject to numbers).

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