Racial Discrimination

20 April 2022

Whether it was intended or not, racial discrimination is unlawful. In Ireland, it is illegal to treat anyone unfavourably due to their race or ethnicity. 

Employers have a legal and moral duty to eliminate racial and ethnic discrimination at work.

If you fail to deal with racial claims, you could risk losing your staff–not to mention financial penalties and damages to your business’ reputation.

In this guide, we’ll discover what racial discrimination is, how it’s different to racism, and what laws prohibit it in Ireland.

What is racial discrimination?

Racial discrimination at work is when an employee is treated less favourably because of their race or ethnicity.

Employees are legally protected against discrimination, harassment, and victimisation. And racist behaviour can range from, a one-off event to regular incidents.

Some examples of racial discrimination in employment can involve:

  • Using racial slurs or derogatory language.
  • Disregarding employees of certain races (for promotions or bonuses).
  • Purposely treating employees differently because of their race or ethnicity.

What are the differences between racism and racial discrimination?

The definition for race involves factors, like ethnic origin, nationality, and colour. </p

In Ireland, the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism (NCCRI) defines racism as:

“A specific form of discrimination faced by minority ethnic groups based on the false belief that some ‘races’ are in essence superior to others because of different skin colour, nationality, ethnic or cultural background”.

In simple terms, racism is considered a broader practice under racial discrimination can be argued as an act of racism.

Different types of racial discrimination

There are four categories that outline different types of racial discrimination. These types include:

  • Direct racial discrimination: Treating someone unfavourably because of their race.
  • Indirect racial discrimination: Disadvantaging an entire racial group through certain practices or requirements.
  • Racial harassment: Subjecting someone to unwanted behaviour because of their race.
  • Racial victimisation: Mistreating someone because they raised a complaint about racial discrimination.

What does racial discrimination mean in Irish law?

Whilst there isn’t a specific racial discrimination act in Ireland, it does sit with equal right laws.

Under the Employment Equality Acts (1998 -2015), you must eliminate any acts of racial discrimination. The legislation states employees cannot be discriminated against these nine protected characteristics:

Employers can be held accountable for discrimination caused by their staff. The effects of racial discrimination can lead to employees feeling unvalued, disrespected, and insulted.

If you mismanage these grievances, the employee may raise their case to the Workplace Relation Commission (WRC). Here, you could face paying uncapped penalties, and impacts on your business reputation.

How to stop racial discrimination in the workplace

Some ways to stop racial discrimination come from having respectful attitudes. Ensure everyone understands the importance of equality; through work cultures, practices, and views.

Here are some steps to stopping racial discrimination in the workplace:

Introduce policies on racial discrimination

It’s important that everyone treats one another with respect–no matter what race they are.

So, your policies should highlight zero-tolerance for discrimination, harassment, and victimisation. And workplace conduct and behaviour should encourage equality and diversity in work.

Ensure recruitment practices are fair

You must ensure your recruitment practices are legally fair and don’t discriminate against any employee or group.

From your job adverts to selection methods, you must ensure a fair process for all. And this includes employee opportunities for bonuses, training, and promotions.

Provide equality training for managers 

The most effective way of ensuring equality and inclusion during work, is by training your management.

Provide managers with training on equality and anti-discrimination. They’ll be able to effectively deal with racial discrimination cases. And they can push a culture of respect and awareness during everyday work.

Handle racial discrimination claims

If anyone raises a claim of racial discrimination, you must use the correct disciplinary procedure.

Initial steps can include resolving the matter internally and providing support. You need to investigate the claim and follow through with an appropriate grievance procedure.

If you fail to resolve the matter fairly, the victim could raise their issue to the WRC. And if the claim involves violence or threatening behaviour, it could be investigated by the police.

Can racial discrimination ever be justified?

In employment law, racial discrimination can sometimes be seen as justifiable. 

For example, you have recently secured a business deal with a client from Peru. Out of all the capable account managers you have, you decide to assign the job to your Peruvian employee.

You believe the rapport will be irreplaceable–from a shared language, culture, and social understanding. Here, your business motives can be considered reasonable and justified.

Get expert advice on dealing with racial discrimination at Peninsula 

Employers have a legal duty to eliminate all cases of racial discrimination–including direct, indirect, harassment, and victimisation.

If employees feel unvalued or disrespected, they could decide to leave. And this can cost you substantial damages–to your name and revenue.

Peninsula offers expert advice on removing racial discrimination. Our HR services allow safeguarding of employee rights – helping you grow a happier and safer workspace.

We also offer 24/7 HR advice that’s available 365 days a year; with multi-lingual support and fully trained counsellors ready to help.

Want to find out more? Book a free consultation with one of our HR consultants. Call 0844 891 0353 for help in promoting health and wellbeing at work.

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