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Unfair treatment, discrimination or harassment at work

Racial harassment at work

Racial harassment by employers or other people 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, either 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.

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 you have a good case, they must take all reasonable steps to stop the harassment from 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.

What should I do if I experience racial harassment in the workplace?

Employment Relations Act 2000, s 112

If you experience 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: “Discrimination”).

You can’t do both. If you decide to go through the Employment Relations Act you must raise your personal grievance within 90 days. On the other hand, you have more time to complain to the Human Rights Commission. The Human Rights Commission also covers a wider group of workers than the Employment Relations Act, including voluntary workers, self-employed and pre-employment situations.

Discrimination in employment against people affected by family violence

Human Rights Act 1993, s 62A

If you’re discriminated against in the workplace because you’re affected by family violence, you can complain to the Human Rights Commission. This includes when you’re applying for a job and also if you’re doing unpaid work.

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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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