Discrimination under the Employment Equality Acts

Discrimination under the Employment Equality Acts 1998 – 2015

Direct discrimination is when a worker is treated less well than another worker in the same situation or circumstances under any of the nine grounds covered in the Acts.

Direct discrimination can also be, for example, an order given by a manager to a worker to discriminate against another worker.

Indirect discrimination happens where a worker or group of workers or job applicants are treated less favourably as a result of requirements that they might find hard to satisfy.

Example of Indirect Discrimination

If a job advertisement states that applicants have to be of a certain minimum height, this may put women at a particular disadvantage. The rationale for this requirement has to be objectively justified. The Acts require the employer to prove that the requirement is also necessary for the job in question, in order not to be discriminatory.

Discrimination by association happens when a person is treated less favourably simply because they are associated with or connected to another person who comes under the nine grounds.

Example of Discrimination by Association

If someone is being harassed at work because one of their family members is gay, they are being discriminated against simply because they are related to a gay person. This is discrimination by association.

Discrimination by imputation happens when a person is treated less favourably because they are labelled as belonging to one of the categories covered by the nine grounds.

Example of discrimination by imputation

If it is incorrectly assumed that a worker is a member of the Traveller community and is treated less favourably on this basis, this is discrimination by imputation.

Victimisation under the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015

Under the Acts, it is ‘victimisation’ if an employer penalises an employee because they have made a complaint under either the Employment Equality Acts 1998–2015 or the Equal Status Acts 2000-2015. Victimisation is against the law.

It is victimisation if an employee is dismissed or penalised in some other way if they have: • made a complaint of discrimination to the employer;

  • been involved in any discrimination proceedings;
  • helped a colleague to make a claim;
  • been penalised as a result of an unfair comparison with a colleague known as a ‘comparator’ (see below);
  • acted as a witness in legal discrimination proceedings;
  • taken a discrimination claim to court under the Acts; or
  • informed an employer that they intend to do any of the things mentioned in any of these points.

The term ‘comparator’ is used, for example, when someone takes a case against an employer on the basis of not being appointed to a certain position because they are female; their ‘comparator’ would then be the male colleague who got the job.

Please note that these factsheets are for information only. They do not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such.