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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 (for what racial harassment means in this context, see above “Racial harassment by employers or other people 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 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 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. 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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