An Overview of Workplace Discrimination

Dealing with the demands and the drama of your job can be difficult enough. Perhaps, your boss is treating you unfairly, the workload is more than you can handle, and the pay is not enough. These are pretty common complaints from employees; however, this treatment can actually be illegal, depending on the circumstances. If you are being treated unfairly because of what are called “protected characteristics,” your employer could be violating your rights. How do you know whether or not you are illegally discriminated against?



In the United Kingdom, the Equality Act 2010 legally defines the protected characteristics. According to the act, no one can discriminate against another person based on gender, disability, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or parenthood, race, nationality, skin colour, ethnicity, national origins, age, disability, sexual orientation, religion or strongly-held belief (including the lack thereof), or any stage in the process of gender reassignment.

It is illegal to discriminate based on any of these factors, but you do not have actually to possess any of these characteristics to have a case. For example, if your employer believes you to be a certain race (whether or not you are) and treats you differently, that employer has broken the law even if you are not actually that ethnicity. Also, you can have a case if you feel you are being discriminated against because of a close association with a person fitting one of these characteristics. For example, if you are close friends with a person of a certain ethnicity and you are treated unfairly as a result.

The Different Types

The Equality Act 2010, in addition to protecting certain lifestyles, defines what counts as discrimination. The law divides discrimination into four different types. If any of these are difficult to navigate or understand, it would be advisable to consult a lawyer such as those at The law can be very confusing, and a skilled professional can definitely help make sense of the types of discrimination.

The first type is called direct discrimination, which is the most blatant form. This form of discrimination is when people with one of the aforementioned characteristics are treated unfairly in the workplace. To qualify as discrimination, you would need to argue that this unfavourable treatment stems from no reason other than the characteristic. Typically, this means you have a hard time being hired at all; you are paid less or rewarded with fewer perks; your contract is less favourable than the contract of others doing the same job; you have fewer opportunities for promotions or training, or you are unfairly dismissed. For example, an employer might pass over a well-qualified gay employee for a heterosexual employee who is less qualified.

The second type, indirect discrimination, is much less blatant. This typically occurs when a boss creates rules that indirectly disadvantage those who have any number of the protected characteristics. These rules oftentimes appear to be fair or impartial in their wording, but are actually discriminatory when put in practice. For example, an employer might ban eating at your desk. On the surface, this seems reasonable; however, it can negatively affect those who have a medical need to maintain a certain caloric intake.

Alex Christo is blogger who writes for quite a few different topics that all fall under his interests and knowledge, such as Gardening, fishing, music and technology, travel amongst others. Currently residing in Thailand he is travelling and gaining new experiences from the world.