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If you find yourself a victim of discrimination do not put up with it, talk to someone about it, this could be a parent, a friend or a manager. Do not retaliate and remember that you can always report it.  Don’t forget you have the Equality Act 2010, amongst other laws behind you. The Act places on the employer a responsibility to deal with any discriminatory complaints.  The employer must find out if there has been unlawful discrimination and, if so, put the situation right.

A worker may take a complaint to their employer and/or to an employment tribunal regarding their employer, a colleague or an agent of the employer that has unlawfully discriminated against them.  When making a complaint to their employer, which is known as a grievance, the employer should implement its own grievance procedure, this is usually found in a staff handbook or the employee’s contract of employment.  This procedure ensures that matters are correctly addressed and the correct procedure is followed.

An employee can take his or her employer to an employment tribunal if they think they have been treated unfairly or broken the law. Before doing this it is normal to follow the grievance procedure first.  If the employee is making a complaint to an employment tribunal, the employee must follow a particular procedure.  This may very well start with seeking guidance and input from other organisations.  The employment tribunal is a court system for employment issues. If a worker’s complaint is felt to be justified, the employment tribunal will allow the case to be heard.

Where a worker’s claim for unfair discrimination is successful, the employment tribunal is able to make what is known as a ‘remedy’.  The remedies are:

  • To make a declaration that an employer has discriminated
  • To award compensation for the worker’s financial loss, for example, loss of earnings, and damages for injury to the worker’s feelings.
  • To make a recommendation requiring the employer to do something specific within a certain time to remove or reduce the bad effects which the claim has shown to exist, for example, providing a reference or reinstating the person to their job, or if it has effect on the wider workforce the employer may have to introduce an equal opportunities policy. 

  With indirect discrimination, if an employer can prove that it did not intend what it did to be discriminatory, the tribunal must consider all the remedies before looking at damages.  Although not common, the tribunal can order an employer to pay the legal costs and expenses of the worker on top of its own legal costs and expenses, so far we have talked about situations concerning complaints by workers in relation to the actions of their employer.

However, there are also cases where complaints are made by workers about the actions of a fellow employee, a consultant or other person acting under contract for the employer.  In some situations, an employee or agent may be personally responsible for their own acts of discrimination, harassment or victimisation carried out during their employment or while acting with the employer’s authority.  An employee or agent will not be responsible for discrimination if their employer has told them there is nothing wrong with what they are doing and the employee or agent reasonably believes this to be true.

It is a criminal offence for an employer to make a false statement which an employee or agent relies upon to carry out an unlawful act. Such an act is punishable by a fine.