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What to do if you experience discrimination

Many cases of discrimination can be dealt with without the need for court action or even filing a formal complaint. Where possible it is best to resolve issues at the lowest level possible.  An understanding of the organisation  you are dealing with and the legal protections you have may help you to resolve issues in your favour.

Some discriminatory attitudes and behaviour are due to a lack of understanding, and while this may still constitute discrimination, can be relatively easily corrected by providing a bit of education. The first step to take in resolving any instance of discrimination is to bring it to the attention of the appropriate person by clearly and calmly explaining why you view the treatment you have encountered to be discriminatory. In some cases it may be appropriate to do this in person, if you feel comfortable doing so, but often it will require written correspondence such as an e-mail.

If you do not receive a satisfactory response to your complaint at this stage then you may wish to address your complaint to someone in the organisation who holds a more senior position. Your complaint is likely to be more effective if you include the following:

  • An explanation of the legal basis on which you are basing your complaint of discrimination e.g I believe I was refused service in your pub due to the fact that I am transgender which is contrary to the Equality Act 2010.
  • What you will do if you do not feel your complaint has been resolved e.g. If I do not receive a satisfactory response to my complaint I will contact a solicitor with a view to commencing legal action
  • A deadline by which you expect to have had a reply to your letter – two weeks is usually reasonable.

If you continue to be dissatisfied with the response or face continued discrimination then you may want to seek legal advice and consider taking legal action. The most common area in which legal action is required is employment due to the impact that work based discrimination has on people’s lives.

When you have experienced discrimination in the provision of goods and services, renting or buying premises, in education or in membership of an association legal action is taken at the Sheriff Court. If you have experienced employment related discrimination a claim is made to the Employment Tribunal.

The most important factor to be aware of when considering taking action is the time limits in which a claim must be raised. In most cases it is 3 months from the date the discrimination occurred or, if you have been dismissed from employment, the date of the dismissal.

For practical advice in relation to discrimination see:

The Citizen’s Advice Bureau Scotland

The Equality Advisory Support Service

Press for Change

HM Courts and Tribunals Service (for employment related issues)