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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.

Employment Relations Act 2000, s 112

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: “Discrimination”). You can’t do both.

What kinds of action could count as discrimination?

Employment Relations Act 2000, s 104

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

  • dismissing you or disadvantaging you in some way
  • requiring you to resign or retire
  • 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.

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: “Discrimination”).

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Resolving employment problems

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: www.communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres

Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment

The Employment website of the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment publishes a range of information on employment relations and minimum rights at work.

Website: www.employment.govt.nz
Phone: 0800 20 90 20
Information about resolving problems at work: www.employment.govt.nz/resolving-problems
Early Resolution Service (free phone-based service to resolve issues before they become serious): www.employment.govt.nz/resolving-problems/steps-to-resolve/early-resolution
Free Mediation Services: www.employment.govt.nz/resolving-problems/steps-to-resolve/mediation

Te Kauae Kaimah/New Zealand Council of Trade Unions

Te Kauae Kaimah is the umbrella body for affiliated unions covering every job and industry in New Zealand. It can provide information about which union may cover the type of work you do.

Website: www.union.org.nz
Email: info@nzctu.org.nz
Phone: (04) 385 1334

Labour inspectorate

Labour inspectors monitor and enforce minimum employment conditions. To refer a problem to a labour inspector, you contact the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment.

Website: www.mbie.govt.nz/position-descriptions/employment-services/labour-inspector-employment-services and www.employment.govt.nz/resolving-problems/steps-to-resolve/labour-inspectorate
Phone: 0800 20 90 20

Employment Relations Authority (ERA)

If you’re unable to settle at mediation (see under “Mediation of Business, Innovation & Employment” above), the next step is to file your claim in the ERA.

Website: www.era.govt.nz
For contact details in your local area: www.era.govt.nz/footer/contact-us

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