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Sex, Sexual Orientation

Protection from unfair treatment

Equality law protects people from unfavourable treatment because of their sex or sexual orientation. It protects people from sexual harassment

Employees (or job applicants and prospective employees) must not be treated differently, unfairly or less favourably because of their sex or sexual orientation.

The law provides protection from:

  • Direct discrimination (being treated less favourably).
  • Indirect discrimination (being at a disadvantage because of a seemingly neutral provision, criterion or practice (PCP)).
  • Victimisation (being subjected to a detriment because of a complaint about discrimination or helping a victim of discrimination i.e. being a witness for them or a ‘companion’ at meetings).
  • Harassment (being subjected to unwanted conduct related to their sex or sexual orientation, which violates dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment).

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is when someone makes another feel humiliated, offended or degraded by subjecting them to unwanted conduct of a sexual nature. This covers verbal and physical treatment, like sexual comments or jokes, touching, or assault.

Another type of harassment relating to sex is when an individual is treated unfairly because they refused to put up with sexual harassment.

Harassment can never be justified, but if an employer can show it did everything it could to prevent harassment, this could provide a defence against claims for harassment or at least against the Company, maybe not against the individual.

The #metoo movement has been invaluable in highlighting sexual harassment and helping many individuals understand how damaging sexual harassment is.

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