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Individual rights & freedoms

Race, gender and other illegal grounds of discrimination

Proving discrimination on the basis of one of the illegal grounds: Some specific issues

Does the illegal ground have to be the only or main reason for what they did?

Cases: [2009] NZSC 78; [2014] HRRTNZ [51]

No. If for example your boss fires you because you have a disability, you don’t have to show that this was the only reason for them firing you, or even that it was the main reason. You just have to show that the disability was a significant or relevant factor in the decision.

What if I’m discriminated against for things that happened in the past?

Human Rights Act 1993, s 21(2)(b)(i)

This is also illegal – for example, if a landlord discriminates against because you were once on an unemployment benefit from Work and Income.

What if I’m discriminated against because of my family or friends?

Human Rights Act 1993, s 21(2)(a)

It’s illegal discrimination if you’re discriminated against because of something about a friend or relative of yours, rather than something directly about you – for example, if your parents are lesbian partners.

What if someone discriminates against me on the basis of a mistake?

Human Rights Act 1993, s 21(2)(b)(ii)

A person doesn’t escape responsibility under the anti-discrimination laws simply because they make a factual mistake when they discriminate.

For example, if an employer discriminates against a Sikh person, thinking they’re Muslim, this is still illegal discrimination.

Example: Discriminating because of a factual mistake is still discrimination

Case: Tenancy Tribunal, Hamilton, 4121958

In a tenancy case, a landlord was ordered to pay compensation to the tenant for trying to end the tenancy on the grounds that the tenant was getting a benefit from Work and Income rather than working.

The landlord had in fact made a mistake about this – she’d got the wrong idea after the tenant had asked her to consider registering with WINZ so that WINZ would advance the tenant the bond money as a loan.

The tenant had told the landlord repeatedly that in fact she and her partner were both working. But the Tenancy Tribunal said that, under the law, “that is not the point”, and that landlords simply aren’t allowed to make decisions based on whether or not you’re working.

The Tribunal said: “The Residential Tenancies Act 1986 and the Human Rights Act 1993 make it clear that whether or not someone is employed, or receives a benefit or ACC, is not relevant to tenancy decisions.”

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Human Rights Commission


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Phone: 0800 496 877 (0800 4 YOUR RIGHTS)
Email: infoline@hrc.co.nz
Text enquiries: 0210 236 4253

A free phone and email information service that you can use for enquiries about your rights or to make a complaint under the Human Rights Act 1993.


You can access pamphlets and fact sheets online or order hard copies from:
Phone: 0800 496 877
Email: resources@hrc.co.nz

Race Relations Commissioner


Phone: 0800 496 877

This section of the Human Rights Commission focuses specifically on ensuring people are not treated unfairly because of their race, ethnicity, skin colour or country of origin.

Human Rights Review Tribunal


This website provides information about the Tribunal and the hearing process and it also has forms, guides and information about fees.

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