In the modern workplace you will find people from various different social, racial and cultural backgrounds. They will not have much in common apart from the fact that they work together.

Most of these people will get along as colleagues, however the reality is that because of their differences some will not. This is where problems with discrimination and unacceptable behavior can occur. Sometimes comments or behavior that appear racist or offensive may have been said innocently or may simply have been misunderstood. These instances can be resolved very quickly. However it’s when discrimination is more abusive and deliberate that problems and friction can arise.

At work nobody should be treated differently or unfairly, if they are then legislation exists to protect them. The law makes it a duty of responsible employers to protect their workers from prejudice and discrimination.

In the UK current legislation exists making it unlawful to discriminate against employers on the following grounds:

  • Gender – being male or female
  • Sexual orientation
  • Religious belief
  • Marital status – being married or single
  • Disability
  • Race or ethnic background
  • Age
  • Being transgender
  • Pregnancy

Direct discrimination
This occurs when staff or managers make regular derogatory or racist remarks towards a certain person or group of people. For instance when a disabled person is automatically rejected when they apply for a particular vacancy. Other examples are a job advert that states that only ‘single males aged under 30 years’ need apply.

Indirect discrimination
This is a more hidden and subtle form of discrimination. Examples of this are having a unwritten rule that says certain jobs within a company are only ever done by a particular ethnic group. Or where one person gets promotion even though other colleagues may be more qualified and experienced, but who are overlooked because they come from a minority group.

Discrimination at work can come in various ways:

  • Harassment – constantly picking on one particular member of staff.
  • Sexual harassment – making unwanted advances of a sexual nature towards a particular person.
  • Bullying – regularly joking about, shouting at or demeaning a particular employee.
  • Stereotyping – pigeon holing particular minority groups.
  • Insensitivity – dismissing the concerns of staff who feel they are victims.

Dealing with discrimination in the workplace
If you feel that you are the victim of prejudice and discrimination then there are a number of things you can do to take action against it.

  • Approach your manager with specific examples of what you have experienced.
  • Ask your manager to see the companies equal opportunities policy, then follow it’s advice.
  • Contact your trade union and complain to them.

If after doing the above you have still not resolved the problem, then you may end up having to have to go to a Employment Tribunal.

Related topics:

Dealing with prejudice in job applications