Race discrimination

It is against the law to discriminate against you because of your race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin, religion or belief.

Race discrimination cases are rarely straightforward. Employers don’t openly treat people differently because of their race very often.


What does race discrimination look like?

It is whenever you are treated unequally because of your race, because someone thinks you are a particular race or the race of someone you associate with.

There are four main types of race discrimination:

1. Direct discrimination

This happens when someone treats you worse than another person in a similar situation because of your race.

  • For example, you aren’t offered overtime because your manager dislikes people of your race.

2. Indirect discrimination

This happens when an employer has a particular policy or way of working that puts people of your racial group at a disadvantage.

  • For example, a hairdresser refuses to employ stylists that cover their own hair. This would put any Muslim women or Sikh men who cover their hair at a disadvantage when applying for a position as a stylist.

Sometimes indirect race discrimination can be permitted if the organisation or employer is able to show that there is a good reason for the discrimination. This is known as objective justification.

3. Harassment

Harassment occurs when someone makes you feel humiliated, offended or degraded.

  • For example a British Asian man at work keeps being called a racist name by colleagues. His colleagues say it is just banter, but the employee feels insulted and offended by it.

Harassment can never be justified. However, if an employer can show they did everything they could to prevent people who work for them from behaving like that, you will not be able to make a claim for harassment against them, although you could make a claim against the harasser.

You can claim harassment even when it is not directed at you.

  • For example, a white employee can bring a claim if offended by the racial discrimination of a black colleague.

Your employer could be liable if you are harassed by a third party – such as a client, customer, or a supplier. If your employer knew, or ought to have known, that you have been harassed by them and have failed to take reasonable steps to prevent it happening again, you may be able to bring a claim under the  Equality Act 2010.

4. Victimisation

This is when you are treated badly because you have made a complaint of race discrimination under the Equality Act. You are also protected  if you are supporting someone who has made a complaint of race discrimination.

  • For example, am employee wants to make a formal complaint about her treatment. Her manager threatens to sack her unless she drops the complaint.


What if it was a colleague discriminating against me, who do I sue?

You can bring a claim against your colleague and employer. Employers can be liable for their staff acting in the course of their employment. This is known as vicarious liability.

Where the acts complained of are done by a colleague, it is wise to bring a claim against them as well as your employer. This is because employers could have a defence if they can prove that they took all reasonably practicable steps to prevent the discrimination from happening. It is rare that an employer succeeds with this defence, but if they do, the claim can continue against your colleague.

We will make sure your case stands the best chance of succeeding.


Why are discrimination claims so hard?

We have a lot of success with our client’s cases, but they aren’t easy to win.  It is for you to prove that discrimination has occurred ‘on the balance of probabilities’. Evidence is often hard to come by but witnesses will help your case.

Once you have established the facts at Tribunal which suggest discrimination has happened, it is then up to your employer to prove that no discrimination has in fact occurred.

There is rarely direct evidence of racial discrimination. Few employers will admit to it.

If you are still at work and you cannot resolve the matter informally with your line manager, then it is usually best to first lodge a grievance. Your employer will then be obliged to investigate your complaint. We recognise there are times when a grievance isn’t appropriate.


What can I do to help my case?

You will want to know all your options before deciding what to do. This is what we are best at.

Sometimes it’s a good idea to raise a grievance with your employer – but it depends on your circumstances. You shouldn’t have to put up with being discriminated against and many people just want to leave work and never return.  We are experienced negotiators and will try to secure you the best exit terms if this is what you want to do.

If you raise a grievance and are not satisfied with the outcome, you could bring a claim against your employer (and possibly the person doing the discrimination too) in an Employment Tribunal. Any claim in the Employment Tribunal will need to be submitted promptly. It is now mandatory to go through Acas’s Early Conciliation scheme before you can submit a claim to the Tribunal. This must be started within three months (less one day) of the discriminatory act. We can handle this for you too.

You can bring a claim for discrimination whilst still working for your employer.

We will always give you clear, honest advice in terms that are easy to understand. Once you have decided what outcome you want, we will go all out to get it for you.


What compensation am I entitled to?

Unlike normal unfair dismissal, there is no maximum amount of compensation a Tribunal can award you.

In addition to damages for any losses you have suffered – such as wages or pension – compensation normally includes an award for injury to feelings. Tribunals are guided in what to award. :

  • Lower band (less serious cases): £900 to £9,000
  • Middle band: £9,000 to £27,000
  • Upper band (the most serious cases): £27,000 to £45,000

In exceptional cases, the award will be over £45,000

What do I do now?

This is where we come in. Employment law is all we do.

Talk to us and we will explain your options. You might want to stay in work, have a phased reduction to your hours or duties until you are ready to go, or if you have been dismissed – we can help you to enforce your employment rights.

It can often feel like your employer holds all the power.  They are likely to have experienced HR professionals or a solicitor working in the background.  That’s why you need the best support and advice available.  You need a specialist employment lawyer – one who will push for the best outcome for you.

We understand how it feels. We have helped hundreds of employees and because we act for businesses too, we know the tactics you’re likely to face from your employer.  We know every trick in the book.

FREE first advice

Have you ever wanted to just ask an expert employment law solicitor if they can help you, without worrying about what it may cost to contact them?

Get in touch

We’d like to talk to you to see what we can do to help, so please either call us anytime for free on 08000 614 631, email us or use the form below

Together we can work out what your next steps might be...in confidence, at no cost and with no obligation.


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