What to do if you have been discriminated against at work

All employees are protected by the Equality Act 2010. If you feel that you have been discriminated against or bullied at work because of your actual or perceived sexual orientation, then these regulations might well be relevant to you.

How you are protected

The legislation defines three types of discrimination at work:

Direct Discrimination: According to the Equality Act, treating people less favourably than others on grounds of sexual orientation constitutes direct discrimination.

Indirect discrimination: This means applying a provision, criterion or practice which disadvantages people of a particular sexual orientation. For example, this could apply if an employer only offers benefits to the heterosexual partners of their employees and not to same-sex partners.

Harassment: The legislation defines harassment as unwanted conduct that violates people’s dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.

The legislation provides protection to lesbian, gay and bisexual workers (aswell as heterosexual people) throughout the entire employment relationship – from recruitment to dismissal. The ban on sexual orientation discrimination applies to terms and conditions, pay, promotions, transfers, training and dismissal.

How you could take action

If you feel that you are experiencing harassment or discrimination, here are some steps you could take:

  • Tell someone at work: Firstly, speak informally to your manager, senior manager, or someone in HR. Tell them what has happened and ask that they take action to help resolve the matter.

  • If the incidents of discrimination or harassment are ongoing, try to keep a diary, as this could be used as evidence.

  • Consider talking to your trade union, if you are a member of one. Some unions have specific forums or groups for their lesbian, gay and bisexual members.

  • If the situation is not resolved, then you could submit a formal grievance to your employer. If you are not happy with how your employer handles your grievance you can submit an appeal.

  • Once you have been through these stages, if you are not satisfied that your situation has been resolved, then you could consider seeking legal advice with a view to taking your employer to an employment tribunal. Find out more about employment tribunals here.

The grievance process

Employees may need to use the formal grievance process to resolve the discrimination or harassment they are experiencing at work. Click here to see our guide to the process, which also details some alternative courses of action employees can take.

Statutory questionnaires

If someone feels they have been discriminated against, for example during a job application process, then they could get the employer to fill in a statutory questionnaire. This is a document which can be used as evidence in any future tribunal cases. The employer does not have to respond but if they do not the court can take this into account in any future case.

You can download the statutory questionnaire for sexual orientation discrimination cases here.

Discrimination at Work? It’s so over.
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