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You have the right not to be discriminated against on the grounds of race, sex, religious or other beliefs, sexual orientation, or disability at any stage of your working career with an employer. The same applies to age discrimination after October 2006.
You don’t have to be working for an employer to be discriminated against. If you can prove to an employment tribunal you’ve been discriminated against in the selection or interviewing process or perhaps not given a job you were fully qualified and capable of doing because you use a wheelchair – you can be awarded compensation. You also have the right not to be discriminated against after you’ve left – perhaps through your references. And, of course, you shouldn’t be discriminated against while you’re working for an employer. The discrimination may not come from the boss himself, but from one of the other employees.
Your employer is still responsible because he allows it to happen in the workplace. Your employer should have an Equal Opportunities Policy in place so that everyone in your workplace understands that discrimination of any sort, against anyone working there, is not tolerated. If you feel you’ve been discriminated against and take a case against your employer, that policy is the first thing the tribunal will want to see.
If you make a complaint about being discriminated against and you’re treated less favourably than other employees because you’ve complained, it may be victimisation. For example, if you’re black and claiming discrimination after a less qualified white person is promoted over your head and you’re dismissed or demoted, it’s likely to be victimisation, and a tribunal is likely to view that as a form of discrimination.
Harassment is anything that violates your dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive working environment for you. That includes sexist or racist jokes, language, or graffiti, or being picked on or ostracised by other employees or managers because of ethnic origins, colour, or sex. The same goes for disability, beliefs, and sexual orientation.
Your employer has a duty to protect you, and the company’s Equal Opportunities Policy should make it clear that harassment isn’t tolerated. If you’re subjected to harassment, you can take a case against your company for discrimination and claim that it didn’t provide a safe and healthy working environment. Alternately, you can claim that you had no choice but to quit because of your employer’s actions – a constructive dismissal.