Victimisation at Work

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Victimisation in the Workplace

Victimisation in the workplace takes a variety of different forms. What is clear is that no individual should accept treatment which amounts to victimisation by their employer. Victimisation or less favourable treatment arises in situations where employees are treated unfairly by their employer because they have taken action in relation to their legal rights. For workers or employees, there are statutory protections in place to prevent employers from punishing individuals who are seeking to rely on their employment rights.

By law, no employee may be subjected to unreasonable or unfavourable treatment in the workplace which amounts to workplace victimisation. If an employer believes an individual is about to bring a claim related to a protected characteristic such as disability, pregnancy, maternity, race, religion or belief, as well as sex and sexual orientation, then that employer may not treat the individual less favourably in order to avert a potential claim.

Workplace Victimisation

The Equality Act 2010 prescribes rights for employees not to be treated less favourably or discriminated against in relation to any particular protected characteristic including but not limited to the following:-

  1. Disability
  2. Gender reassignment 
  3. Religion or belief
  4. Race
  5. Sex
  6. Sexual orientation 
  7. Pregnancy and maternity.

If an employer treats an individual less favourably because they have carried out a “protected act”, then that employer will be victimising that individual and this will give rise to a claim for limited damages under the Equality Act 2010. A “protected act” could include issuing a claim under the Equality Act 2010, or giving evidence in relation to a third party’s claim, or making an allegation that a third party has contravened the Equality Act 2010, giving rise to a claim of discrimination. If a person is treated unfairly because of all or any of the reasons linked to making a “protected act” then this will give rise to victimisation contrary to the Equality Act 2010. 

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Victimisation at Work Reading

If an employee believes that he or she has been subjected to victimisation, then strict time limits apply in relation to that potential claim, pursuant to the Equality Act 2010. A claim for workplace victimisation needs to be issued at the employment tribunal within three months of the date of the act of victimisation. If an employee believes that they have been subjected to victimisation, they should seek immediate legal advice and consider preserving their position by triggering the ACAS early conciliation process. This process will enable an individual to buy extra time in order to issue a claim for victimisation at the employment tribunal.

The term victimisation is not always used in situations which relate to discrimination, or which involve a protected characteristic. In those cases, if victimisation is used to describe a situation where an employee is treated differently from another employee to their detriment, then it is possible that this treatment will give rise to a separate claim of constructive unfair dismissal, provided that the employee concerned has been employed for in excess of two years.

In either case, whether or not the victimisation arises from a claim for discrimination or the threat of a claim for discrimination, or alternatively, if it arises simply from a difference in treatment between one individual and another which causes a detriment to that individual, it is essential that the wronged employee seeks legal advice on their position at the earliest opportunity. Protection applies in relation to this situation throughout the term of an individual’s employment. This includes the recruitment phase, prior to the individual commencing employment, and right through the period of the employment until after a dismissal has occurred.

The lawyers at DPH Legal are all experienced in bringing and defending claims for discrimination in the employment tribunal. For further advice on this area, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

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