Discrimination in the Workplace: A Guide for Employees

by | Jan 5 2021 | Discrimination, Employment Disputes

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Kitty Leask LGBT Lawyers
By Kitty Leask
Kitty is the latest addition to LGBT Lawyers' team. A member of the LGBT community herself, Kitty dedicates her time to promoting the LGBT fight for equality and is here to help all of our clients find the right lawyer to support their case.

Discrimination In The Workplace | Read Time 5 Minutes. 

It’s difficult to know what to do when you are experiencing discrimination in the workplace.

For example, a colleague could say something to you in passing and you might think to shrug it off. Furthermore, your manager might cut down your shifts and you may not know how to question them on the issue. Discrimination in the workplace is a hugely prevalent problem, especially for members of the LGBT community. Whatsmore, individuals might now know when or how to speak out about their treatment and often fear worse consequences if they do so. 

Stonewall revealed that 1 in 5 LGBT employees have been subjected to negative or derogatory comments based on their sexual orientation. Additionally, the same survey revealed 32% of those asked had also witnessed other LGBT employees being subjected to the same treatment.

Despite the high figures, many individuals choose not to speak out against their employers or colleagues when they are being mistreated. Whatsmore, it’s easy to be in the dark about what the grievance process actually is. Aditionally, you might not know what the time restraints surrounding the process may be. 

What does discrimination in the workplaCE LOOK LIKE?

 

Discrimination in the workplace materialises in many ways. It could be something as small as a passing remark about your character. On top of this, it could be as big as denying you shifts, paying you incorrectly or even dismissing you.

Bullying, harassment and discrimination are prominent things in the workplace and it’s amazing how quickly they can escalate. For example, one day a colleague could call an LGBT individual a “faggot” in passing. However, a week later they are mocked by management and having their shifts cut from 5 a week to 2 a week.

Whatever form discrimination in the workplace takes itself in it should never be tolerated. Additionally. it’s important to approach it before it escalates and to tackle it in the correct time limit.

Most common examples of discrimination and unfair treatment in the workplace include:

  • Being unfairly dismissed
  • Having shifts cut
  • Outright bullying
  • Being under or incorrectly paid
  • Exclusion and isolation by colleagues and management
  • Being given an unreasonable workload
  • Receiving abuse that references to your protected characteristic ( e.g race, age, gender, sexual orientation)

How do I CORRECTLY REPORT A GRIEVANCE?

 

STEP 1: MAKE AN INFORMAL COMPLAINT

The first place to start when challenging an employer is aconversation with that person by making an informal complaint.

It’s always best to pacify the situation between you before using the assistance of a lawyer. Furthermore, if the problem occurs whilst you are still an employee, you can go directly to the employer and discuss how their actions make you feel and the effect this has on your professional abilities.

STEP 2: MAKE A FORMAL COMPLAINT OR "GRIEVANCE"

If you discusse your issue with the individual and see no change in their treatment towards you (or if their behaviour has worsened) then you can make a formal complaint or grievance.

Whatsmore, your employer will have a formal procedure for raising a grievance, which you can find either in your contract or company handbook, or on your HR intranet site if you have one.

STEP 3: EARLY CONCILIATION

If you raise a formal grievance with your employer and still nothing improves (or if things are worse) you need to contact ACAS.

Within 3 months of rasising your formal girevance, you need to contact ACAS to start the early coniliation process. Furthermore, It’s crucial that you do this within the 3 month period. On top of this, Acas will contact your employer and will seek to fix the issue.

STEP 4: TAKE YOUR COMPLAINT TO AN EMPLOYMENT TRIBUNAL

If ACAS has tried and failed to contact your employer and mediate the situation, they will then provide you with a certificate which will enable you to take your claim to an employment tribunal.

It is at this point that you can consider getting external legal advice. If you choose to do this, it’s essential to work quickly. Whatsmore, you will need to raise your grievance with ACAS  within 3 months of making your internal grievance with your employer.

CHALLENGING DISCRIMINATION

If you are taking action against an act of discrimination in the workplace, its important to consider exactly what you want the outcome of your complaint to be. For example, it could be legal action, compensation or getting your job back (if you have been dismissed).

You will need to make sure that your problem is covered by the Equality Act 2010 and you will need to gather as much evidence as you can to support your case. Furthermore, like redundancies and unfair dismissal, you have 3 months after the discriminatory act in which to take your appeal to the county court.

 cASE sTUDY

Michael (who is LGBT) has been working at his job for a year.

 

He is a bartender and works with a team of 20 people. A new team member, Jack, starts working at the bar. Michael notices that Jack mocks his sexual orientation in casual passing. Whatsmore, Jack calls Michael “queer” and a “fag” and mocks the way he dresses and how he speaks.

 

To Michael’s surprise, his managers find Jack’s comments funny. Whatsmore, in the following weeks, Michael finds that most of the team are now mocking the fact he is gay. They frequently laugh at him and call him names.

 

Over time, Michael finds himself being isolated by his colleagues. He is not given as many tasks or responsibilities as he is usually given. He even finds that his shifts have been cut. Michael decides to raise his issue with his managers as an informal discussion. His managers assure him that there is nothing wrong, that he is being ridiculous and overreacting. His management team do not discuss the situation with Jack or the other colleagues.

 

But the situation continues to worsen. Michael finds himself not being invited to training sessions and his manager even starts lagging behind on his payments. One day, Michael comes to work and his manager tells him that they’re going to have to let him go. Furthermore, when questioned, the manager simply replies that things aren’t working out and they don’t have a position for him anymore.

 

After his dismissal, Michael is confused and angry. Subsequently, 4 months later, he decides to get in contact with a lawyer to see what his options are for challenging the decision.

 

The above case study is an example of unfair dismissal and is also an example of discrimination in the workplace. Michael did the right thing by discussing the girevance with his employer in the early stages. However, he failed to submit his grievance to ACAS before the 3 month period. this meant that legally there was nothing anyone could do to help him, even though he definitely had a valid case.

Discrimination in the Workplace: SPEAK UP

It’s important to report any issues you have at work as soon as possible. Feeling like you are mistreated or discriminated against in the workplace is difficult and overwhelming. However,  unfortunately, there are some really rigorous legislation’s in place. It makes reporting these things under immense time pressure.

If you are experiencing any kind of unfair treatment or discrimination at work, we encourage you to take grievance steps as soon as possible. For more information on your specific issue, take a look at our harassment, unfair dismissal, discrimination and employment disputes pages.

Remember, you have three months from the date of your grievance or the date of dismissal to raise a claim with ACAS and get the ball rolling with your case.

LGBT Lawyers are here to help anyone who has experienced discrimination or injustice. Whatsmore, if you have a case, or think you have a case but don’t know where to start, get in touch with us today for an initial consultation.

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We’re here to assist. Just tell us what you need help with and we’ll call you back to arrange a meeting.

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