The word ‘victimisation’ has a precise meaning under the Equality Act 2010. It refers to a situation where an individual has done a ‘protected act’ and then been subjected to a detriment because of it.
It does not refer, as is commonly thought, to bullying. If you think you think you have been bullied at work, please see our separate advice concerning that.
What is a ‘protected act?
There are four types of protected act under Section 27 of the Equality Act 2010.
- Bringing proceedings alleging a breach of the Equality Act 2010;
- Giving evidence or information in connection with proceedings under the Equality Act 2010;
- Doing “any other thing other thing for the purposes of or in connection with the Equality Act 2010”;
- Making an allegation that a person has contravened the Equality Act 2010. That allegation does not have to be express.
There is no need for the allegation to be true for it to constitute a protected act. It is possible that the allegation may turn out not to be correct. However, if the allegation or information given is given in bad faith, then it will not be a protected act.
Employers are liable for victimisation carried out by their employees in the course of their employment. It doesn’t matter whether or not the employer itself authorises or knows about their actions.
How do I know if I’ve been victimised?
If you have previously complained about discrimination and then are treated in a way that you think is unfair or unreasonable, you may want to consider whether the reason why you have been treated badly is your previous complaint. To succeed in a claim for victimisation, you’ll need to show that the detrimental treatment you suffered was because of your protected act.
Meera works at a bank and writes in a grievance that male traders appear to receive greater bonuses than women and she thinks that is discriminatory. She asks to see information about this. Because of this, Meera’s boss suggests that she finds another job as she is ‘causing trouble’.
Meera’s grievance is probably a protected act. She is complaining that the bank are discriminating in the way bonuses are distributed, and thus they are contravening the Equality Act 2010. Telling her to find another job is likely to be unlawful victimisation.
David brings a race discrimination claim against his former employer. His case settles before it goes to tribunal. A year later he applies for a job with the same employer. He is rejected and told that the reason is that the company considers that he was disloyal when he was previously employed.
David’s race discrimination claim was a protected act. If his employer refuses to employ him again because of this, it will be committing unlawful victimisation.