The word “discrimination” is often misused when it comes to employment law. Under Irish employment legislation a person can only be discriminated against if they are treated in a less favourable way than another person based on any of the following 9 grounds:
- civil status,
- family status,
- sexual orientation,
- religious belief or lack of belief,
- race (including nationality),
- membership of the Traveller community
Discrimination can occur in relation to (a) access to employment, (b) conditions of employment, (c) training or experience for or in relation to employment, (d) promotion or re-grading, or (e) classification of posts.
Discrimination can be direct or indirect. Direct discrimination occurs where the complainant is treated less favourably compared to another person in a similar position by reason of one of the 9 grounds. To establish direct discrimination a direct comparison must be made. Indirect discrimination occurs where a condition is applied to everyone but might put a class of people, who fall within one of the 9 protected grounds, at a disadvantage. Indirect discrimination is a more subtle form of discrimination and while practices or policies do not appear to discriminate against one group more than another, they have a discriminatory impact. It will not be indirect discrimination if the employer can objectively justify the condition.
There is no minimum service required for an employee to bring a complaint of discrimination.
Employees are protected from victimisation under Irish employment equality legislation. This means that an employee cannot be penalised by their employer should they bring a complaint or are involved in a complaint of unlawful discrimination against their employer.