Discrimination happens when someone is treated worse ('less favourably' in legal terms) than another person in the same situation. Discrimination may happen:
You may suffer discrimination for a number of reasons. In many cases it is because of:
But it might also be because:
The protection you have in law depends on why you were discriminated against. In the case of sex discrimination, for example, there are specific laws setting out when it is unlawful for someone to discriminate against you because of your sex.
In these situations, you have the right to go to an employment tribunal or to court if you have been treated unfairly. You may get compensation for loss of earnings or if your feelings have been hurt, depending on the kind of discrimination you've suffered. Also, taking someone to court or to a tribunal may change the way an organisation behaves so that other people aren't discriminated against.
With other types of discrimination, such as discrimination because of your age, there are no specific laws, though there are things that you may be able to do, to stop the discrimination happening. And there are changes in the laws planned which should give you more protection against discrimination.
This leaflet begins with how the law on equal opportunities and anti-discrimination works, and what types of discrimination you are protected from. It also looks in more detail at the laws covering discrimination because of sex, and explains what you can do if you have been discriminated against. Finally, it looks at the more limited rights you have if you are discriminated against because of your age, religious beliefs or sexual preference.
There are separate Community Legal Service leaflets, 'Racial discrimination' and 'Rights for people with disabilities', which deal with those areas in more detail.
Sometimes, someone may be discriminated against for more than one reason. If you think that you are in this position, you may need to get advice about the best course of action to take. You can get advice from a:
See 'Further help' for more about where to get advice.