Unfair treatment, discrimination or harassment at work

Racial harassment at work

Racial harassment by employers or others in authority

Employment Relations Act 2000, ss 103, 109

You may have a personal grievance if you’re racially harassed by your employer or a manager or supervisor. Racial harassment in this context means where the other person uses language (whether written or spoken), visual material or physical behaviour that directly or indirectly:

  • expresses hostility against you, or brings you into contempt or ridicule, based on your race, colour or ethnic or national origins, and
  • is hurtful or offensive to you (whether or not you convey this to the other person), and
  • has a negative effect on your employment, job performance, or job satisfaction, either because of the kind of language, material or behaviour that it is, or because it’s repeated.

Racial harassment by co-workers, customers or clients

Employment Relations Act 2000, ss 103, 109, 117, 118

You may also have a personal grievance against your employer for racial harassment if one of your co-workers or one of your employer’s customers or clients racially harasses you and your employer doesn’t take the necessary action (for what racial harassment means in this context, see above “Racial harassment by employers or others in authority”).

If you’re racially harassed by a co-worker, customer or client, you can complain to the employer. Your employer must then investigate your complaint. If the employer is reasonably satisfied that your complaint is well-founded, they must take all practicable steps to stop the harassment happening again.

If the harassment happens again after you’ve complained, and your employer hasn’t taken practicable steps to prevent it, you can bring a personal grievance against your employer.

Employment Relations Act 2000, s 112

Note: If you suffer racial harassment in the workplace you can bring a personal grievance under the Employment Relations Act or you can complain to the Human Rights Commission under the Human Rights Act (see the chapter “Discrimination”). You can’t do both.

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