Discrimination takes many forms. An employee or worker with a protected characteristics can be discriminated against directly or indirectly, or might experience bullying or harassment in the workplace because of that characteristice.

The protected characteristics are:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity

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We have covered certain examples of discrimination separately below.  Unfair or unkind treatment will only amount to discrimination if it relates to a protected characteristic.

How we can help employers

If you are being accused of discrimination, we can help an employer to defend such claims at any stage. This can either involve a proactive approach, in trying to deal with the allegations at the initial grievance stage and managing an appropriate outcome, or we can assist in representing a respondent in the Employment Tribunal process.

We also have our more strategic ED&I support, and strategic coaching, which is aimed at trying to reduce allegations of discrimination in the workplace.

How we can help employees

If you are an employee and you feel you have been the subject of discrimination because of any of the protected characteristics listed above, please get in touch with us at and arrange a free initial consultation, where a solicitor can consider your claim and how best to proceed with this.

Discrimination can come in different forms

Direct discrimination

Direct discrimination occurs if an individual is treated less favourably than others because of a protected characteristic. For example, being rejected for a job because of your religious views or because or your sexual orientation.

Indirect discrimination

An individual could be indirectly discriminated against if their employer is putting rules or arrangements in place that apply to everyone, but which puts that individual or someone with a protected characteristic at an unfair disadvantage. For example, requiring a job to be done full-time rather than part-time would adversely affect women because they generally have greater childcare commitments than men. Such a requirement would be discriminatory unless it can be justified. We have a blog on a case which expressly deals with this scenario, here.


Harassment can occur where a person in the workplace is carrying out unwanted behaviour linked to an individual’s protected characteristic that violates their dignity or creates an offensive environment for them. This includes sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment is where an employee is subject to unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose or effect of either violating their dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment


An individual could be being victimised if they are being treated unfairly because they have complained about discrimination or harassment.

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