Racial discrimination in the workplace

If you’re facing racial discrimination at work, it can be an unsettling and distressing time. You may be unsure about who to talk to, how to go about reporting the matter, and you may feel uncertain about who you can trust.

If you or someone you know has suffered racial discrimination at work, we encourage you not to suffer in silence. Call our team on 0808 164 0808 for a free no-obligation chat, or request a call back and we will call you.

To see funding options for racial discrimination claims, click here.

What is racial discrimination?

A person’s race is made up of one or more of these:

  • Colour;
  • Ethnic origin or ethnic group;
  • National origin;
  • Nationality;
  • Racial group.

If you feel you are being treated unfairly by your employer or colleagues at work because of one of the above, then you may be experiencing racial discrimination. You could also be facing racial discrimination at work if you are being treated unfairly because of your associations with someone of a different race, like your partner or child, for example.

Racial discrimination in any form is unacceptable, and race is classed as one of the nine protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. Any employer or employee who discriminates against someone else because of their race is committing an illegal act.

At work, the law protects the following people against discrimination:

  • Employees and workers;
  • Contractors and self-employed people hired to personally do the work;
  • Job applicants.

It’s against the law to discriminate against someone because of any of the following:

  • Their race;
  • The race of someone they know or have a connection with, for example, a family member, friend, or colleague (‘discrimination by association’)
  • Someone’s ‘perceived’ race – this means thinking someone is a certain race when they are not (‘discrimination by perception’).

Racial discrimination examples

Below we have listed some common examples of race discrimination at work:

  • Dismissals – if you have been dismissed unfairly, constructively or wrongfully because of your race, you could be eligible to take legal action;
  • Demotions / no promotions – if you are clearly being passed up for a promotion, not given the opportunity to apply for one, or even demoted because of your race this would be classed as race discrimination;
  • Being made redundant – if you have been made redundant based on your race, and your employer did not follow the correct process, this could be race discrimination;
  • Recruitment decisions – if you apply for a role and you are rejected for no other reason than your race, this would be discrimination;
  • Pay and contractual terms – if you are being paid less than someone else in the same role as you because of your race, or the terms in your contract put you at a disadvantage because of your race, this would be discrimination;
  • Training and opportunities – if you are being ignored or not given the appropriate training for your role due to your race this would be classed as race discrimination;
  • Victimisation at work –You may be victimised and treated badly by your colleagues or management for reporting race discrimination, or you could be victimised if you’ve been seen to help somebody who is reporting race discrimination;
  • Harassment – if your employer and/or colleagues are deliberately making you feel intimidated, humiliated and offended because of your race, this would be race discrimination.

How to take action against racial discrimination at work

Before seeking legal advice, there may be other options you can consider first. You could try raising an informal complaint at work and see if the situation can be diffused that way. If not, you could raise a formal complaint (known as a grievance) to try and resolve the situation with your employer. Or you may want to take your case to the Employment Tribunal.

Claim compensation for racial discrimination at work

Our racial discrimination solicitors will be able to help you during the complaints process, and if you wish to take your race discrimination claim to the Employment Tribunal. We can help you try and reach a settlement with your employer, and if that doesn’t work we will be able to issue proceedings and represent you at the tribunal. Currently, the law states you have three months, less one day, from the date of the last act of racial discrimination to start a complaint at an Employment Tribunal. In order to bring a tribunal claim for racial discrimination at work, we recommend you contact our employment solicitors in the first instance.

You must to submit details of your race discrimination claim to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), so that they can establish whether your employer will agree to ‘early conciliation’. We might be able to help you with this depending on your situation.

The ACAS process can take a few weeks to complete, and the ‘early conciliation’ will be added to the time limit. This is why we recommend you get in touch as soon as possible after you have experienced racial discrimination.

Get in touch with us today

You can call us free on 0808 164 0808 for a no-obligation chat about your potential racial discrimination compensation claim. Or, if you’d prefer, you can request a call back and one of our team will call you at a time that suits.


In general you have three months less one day from the most recent act of discrimination or breach to take action, meaning you should act fast.

We recommend you speak to one of our lawyers in the first instance.  Please be aware that the ACAS process can take up to around six weeks to complete, which will be taken from the three months you have to begin with. It is important to act quickly in order to bring a tribunal claim. If the conciliation period is unsuccessful, we may be able to support you with the tribunal. If you feel you have a potential employment claim please act quickly and contact us today.