Unfair treatment, discrimination or harassment at work

Discrimination at work

The illegal grounds of discrimination

Employment Relations Act 2000, ss 103, 105, 107

You’ll usually be able to bring a personal grievance based on discrimination if your employer treats you unfairly on any of these grounds:

  • your race or national origins
  • your gender identity or sexual orientation
  • your relationship status
  • you have children or are pregnant
  • you’re a victim of family violence
  • your age (if you’re 16 or older)
  • disability
  • your religious beliefs or political opinions
  • your employment status
  • you’re a union member (or you intend to join), or you’re involved in union activities.

    Note: If you’re discriminated against at work, you can bring a personal grievance under the Employment Relations Act 2000 or you can complain to the Human Rights Commission under the Human Rights Act 1993 (see the chapter “Discrimination”). You can’t do both.

What kinds of action could count as discrimination?

This can be if your employer does any of the following things based on one of the illegal grounds of discrimination set out above:

  • Employment Relations Act 2000, s 104

    dismissing you or disadvantaging you in some way

  • refusing you, or failing to offer you, the same:
    • terms of employment
    • conditions of work
    • fringe benefits
    • opportunities for training, promotion, or transfer as other employees with similar quali­fications and in similar circumstances
  • requiring you to resign or retire.

For some examples of disability discrimination cases where the worker took a personal grievance, see the chapter “Disability rights”, under “Employment: Access to jobs and protection against discrimination”.

Exceptions where employers are allowed to discriminate

Employment Relations Act 2000, ss 105, 106

The illegal grounds of discrimination in employment law (except involvement in union activities) are the same as the grounds in the Human Rights Act 1993. However, in both cases the right to freedom from discrimination in employment is not absolute. There are some circumstances where different treatment of employees on the illegal grounds is acceptable (see the chapter “Discrimination”).

Employment Relations Act 2000, s 112

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