Employment discrimination in the workplace falls under the scope of the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015. These acts are unique in that they not only protect employees, but also job applicants, independent contractors and employees with less than one year’s service.
According to Section 6 of the Employment Equality Act 1998 as amended, discrimination is where a person is treated less favourably than another person who is, has been or would be treated in a comparable situation.
This difference in treatment must be due to one of the nine protected grounds:
- Civil status
- Family status
- Sexual orientation
- Religious belief
- Race, colour, nationality or ethnic or national origins
- Membership of the Travelling Community
The Acts specify that that where a woman employee is treated less favourably than another employee on a ground related to her pregnancy or maternity leave, it will be taken as gender discrimination.
The Employment Equality Acts apply to many different aspects of employment, such as:
- Terms of Employment
- Working Conditions
- Pension rights
- Treatment in relation to overtime, shift work and short time
- Treatment in relation to lay-offs and redundancies
- Treatment in relation to disciplinary procedures, disciplinary measures and dismissals
- Access to employment
- Access to training and facilities
- Promotions or re-grading
- Classification of posts
- Advertisement of employment opportunities
- Pay – equal remuneration for equal work
- Collective Agreements
The Acts can also in some circumstances place additional obligations on employers. For example, Section 16(3)(b) requires employers to take ‘appropriate measures’ where necessary to enable persons with disabilities to have access to employment, participation and advancement in employment and undergo training. This obligation applies under the measures would impose a disproportionate burden on the employer. Whether a measure is a disproportionate burden will depend on its costs, the scale and financial resources available to the employer’s operation and the possibility of obtaining public funding. These measures may include the adaptation of business premises and equipment, patterns of working times, distribution of tasks among employees, or the provision of additional training or integration resources.
The Workplace Relations Commission deals with complaints under the Employment Equality Acts.