Belfast Telegraph

Monday 29 December 2014

Keep up with race legislation

An English pipe fitter who was working in Dublin has been awarded 20,000 euro (£15,630) in compensation after being racially abused in his workplace.

The tribunal found the man had been racially harassed following taunts about where he came from, referring to him as “the Brit” and reading aloud negative comments about England’s performance in the 2006 World Cup.

The man also claimed that some colleagues never spoke to him and others deliberately sang Irish songs of a political nature in his presence.

This case highlights the issue of racial harassment and this article will look at the legislation that exists in Northern Ireland around race discrimination.

Race discrimination law in Northern Ireland is covered by the Race Relations (Northern Ireland) Order 1997, as amended in 2003. The legislation prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race where race includes people of a particular racial group (including Irish Travellers), or people of a particular ethnic or national origin, colour or nationality.

It is also unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of someone else's race, for example, discriminating against a white employee because that employee has a black partner.

The legislation outlaws:

  • direct discrimination — a person discriminates against another if, on racial grounds, they treat that person less favourably than they treat or would treat other persons
  • indirect discrimination — there are two definitions of indirect discrimination. The first applies to complaints on grounds of race or national or ethnic origin.

Here, indirect discrimination occurs where a provision, criterion or practice is applied, or would be applied, equally but which puts people of a particular race, or national or ethnic origin at a disadvantage and which cannot be justified by showing it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

The second definition applies only to complaints about discrimination on grounds of colour or nationality. It occurs where a condition or requirement is applied which only a considerably smaller proportion of one racial group can comply with, which is not justifiable and which causes a detriment.

An example of indirect discrimination would be where an employer requires higher English language standards than are needed for the safe and effective performance of a job.

  • harassment — unwanted conduct with the purpose of violating another's dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that person.

Racial harassment can take many forms, for example, verbal or physical abuse, ostracism by colleagues, suggestive remarks, or other actions designed to make a person feel uncomfortable at work

  • victimisation — anyone who brings proceedings under the legislation, gives evidence or information in connection with proceedings brought by another person, does anything else connected to their claim of discrimination or anyone else’s claim or makes allegations of discrimination against another person is protected under the legislation.

Generally, an employee must first raise a grievance under the statutory grievance procedure before being able to make a claim to an industrial tribunal.

Further information on all aspects of race discrimination is available from your local CAB or the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland’s enquiry line on 028 9089 0890 or from www.equalityni.org

Siobhan Harding is an information and policy officer with Citizens Advice

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