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We all deserve respect and fair treatment at work. When everyone can make the most of their hard work and talents, we’re all better off. But too many working people still face prejudice and discrimination.

By law, you mustn’t be discriminated against based on your age, sex, disability, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation, marriage or civil partnership status, pregnancy or maternity, or gender reassignment. These are called protected characteristics.

So, if your employer (or a co-worker) is treating you worse or harassing you because of any of these characteristics, they’re breaking the law.

What’s more, your workplace shouldn’t be run in a way that stops people with protected characteristics from doing as well as anyone else. That’s called indirect discrimination, and it’s illegal too.

It doesn’t matter what size the company is or what kind of contract you’re on – bosses can’t duck equality law.

If you feel you’re being discriminated against, there are lots of ways you can take action to enforce your rights.

But employers are most likely to pay attention when workers act together, especially through a trade union. It’s the best way to bring about new policies and practices that make the workplace fairer for everyone.

This section offers information on your rights and on what you can do if you think you’re being discriminated against.

But it shouldn’t be taken as legal or financial advice. Discrimination law is complex and every case is different. Before taking any action, you should seek individual advice from your union or a qualified adviser.

Since I became a Disability Advisor six years ago, the company hasn’t been to an employment tribunal on the grounds of disability discrimination
Carl, Disability Equality Adviser
What is discrimination?
Direct discrimination is when someone is treated less favourably because of their race or religion. For example if a female black member of staff isn't treated the same way as a white man. There are 3 other types of discrimination; indirect, victimisation and harassment.
What is harassment?
Harassment can be defined as unwanted conduct that violates people’s dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.
I think my employer is discriminating against me. What can I do?
Your first step will depend on who it is you believe is acting in a discriminatory way towards you, and choosing the right person to raise the issue with. If things don’t improve you should follow your organisation's grievance procedure. Your organisation may also have a separate procedure in place to deal with allegations of bullying or harassment, or even a helpline you can use.

Some unions also offer a hotline you can use to access help and support.
I've applied for a job, but been rejected because of my appearance. Is that legal?
If an employer has refused you a job because of your physical appearance, the organisation may be engaging in unlawful discrimination. Discrimination will be no less unlawful just because it is subconscious or unspoken, or because it is based on ingrained or stereotypical assumptions. The employer may not even be aware that they are engaging in discrimination.

There are rare exceptions of professions, such as modelling or acting, where an employer is still likely to discriminate openly and lawfully on grounds of physical appearance.
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