What is discrimination?
The following extract is taken from the Commission for Racial Equality :
The Race Relations Act is concerned with people's actions and the effects of their actions, not their opinions or beliefs. Racial discrimination is not the same as racial prejudice or 'racism'.
Prejudice literally means 'pre-judging' someone - knowing next to nothing about them but jumping to conclusions because of some characteristic, like their appearance.
Racism is the belief that some 'races' are superior to others - based on the false idea that different physical characteristics (like skin colour) or ethnic background make some people better than others.
Discrimination occurs when someone is treated less favourably on grounds of their colour, race, nationality or national or ethnic origin. It is not necessary to prove that someone intended to discriminate against you: it is sufficient only to show that the outcome of their action was that you received less favourable treatment.
The Race Relations Act identifies three main types of racial discrimination:
- Direct racial discrimination (including harassment)
- Indirect racial discrimination
Direct racial discrimination
This occurs when you are able to show that you have been treated less favourably on racial grounds than others in similar circumstances. To prove this, it will help if you can give an example of someone from a different racial group who, in similar circumstances, has been treated more favourably than you.
Racist abuse and harassment are forms of direct discrimination.
If someone has been subjected to harassment on grounds of race or ethnic or national origin, this is regarded as unwanted conduct under the Race Relations Act.
The law considers this to have the effect of violating that person's dignity, or of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that person.
Indirect racial discrimination
Indirect racial discrimination may fall into one of two categories. The first is on grounds of colour or nationality; the second is based on race, ethnic or national origin.
On grounds of colour or nationality
This occurs when you, or people from your racial group, are less likely to be able to comply with a requirement or condition, and that requirement cannot be justified on non-racial grounds.
You will need to show that a considerably smaller proportion of people of your colour or nationality would be able to meet the requirement or condition compared to people not of your colour or nationality. You would also need to show that you have suffered less favourable treatment as a result.
For example, a rule that employees or pupils must not wear headgear could exclude Sikh men and boys who wear a turban, or Jewish men or boys who wear a yarmulka, in accordance with practice within their racial group.
On grounds of race, ethnic or national origin
The Race Regulations 2003 introduced a less demanding criterion for indirect racial discrimination on grounds of race, ethnic or national origin.
Discrimination of this type occurs when a provision, criterion or practice is applied to everyone, but puts people of the same race or national or ethnic origin at a particular disadvantage. You will have to demonstrate that you have suffered disadvantage as a result, and that the provision cannot be shown to be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
This has a special legal meaning under the Race Relations Act. It occurs if you are treated less favourably because you have complained about racial discrimination, or supported someone else who has.
More details are available from the Commission for Racial Equality