Discrimination at work
It’s against the law to be treated unfairly in the workplace or when you apply for a job.
Employee agreements during COVID-19
Types of discrimination
It’s unlawful if an employer treats you unfairly at work in a way that unreasonably disadvantages you because of who you are and what you believe in.
Employers and workplaces may not discriminate against you because of:
- race or colour
- ethnicity or national origins
- sex (including pregnancy or childbirth)
- sexual orientation
- religious or ethical belief
- marital or family status
- employment status
- political opinion
- being affected by family violence
- involvement in union activities, including claiming or helping others to claim a benefit under an employment agreement, or taking or intending to take employment relations education leave.
Legal protection at work
Protection from discrimination applies to all aspects of employment, including:
- recruitment and selection
- your pay and conditions
- training and promotion
- ending your employment.
The law applies to both full-time and part-time work, even if you’re:
- working on contract
- a volunteer worker
- looking for work through a recruitment agency.
As well as employers, the law also applies to how you’re treated by professional or trade associations, qualifying bodies and vocational training bodies.
There are some exceptions. An employer can treat people differently in some situations.
If you’ve been discriminated against
Discrimination can sometimes be hard to prove. The first thing to do is to discuss your problem with:
- the Human Rights Commission, or
- Employment New Zealand.
They’ll talk the problem through with you and help you decide what to do next.
Resolving the problem
There are several ways the Human Rights Commission and Employment New Zealand can help you to resolve your problem. They’ll work with you to decide what to do. This could be:
- making a phone call to the employer for you
- arranging mediation so everyone involved can talk the problem through
- taking the grievance to the Human Rights Review Tribunal or the Employment Relations Authority.
If it’s a human rights matter
The Human Rights Commission offers a free and confidential mediation service. When you contact them, you’ll need to tell them what happened and why you think you’ve been discriminated against. They’ll use this information to work out if your problem is one that they can help with.
Taking further action
If your complaint is not resolved through the Human Rights Commission’s processes, you have the right to go to the Human Rights Review Tribunal. You can do this directly or by asking for representation from the Office of Human Rights Proceedings. If they think you have a genuine case, they pay for your legal representation.
If the Office of Human Rights Proceedings decides not to represent you, you can still take your case to the Human Rights Review Tribunal, but you have to pay your own legal costs.
Health and disability, or employment issues
If the Human Rights Commission think your problem is related to a health and disability or employment issue, they’ll refer you to the Health and Disability Commissioner or Employment New Zealand.
If it’s an employment matter
Employment New Zealand provides a free mediation service for employees and employers.
Taking further action
If you cannot resolve your problem through mediation, other steps include taking a personal grievance against your employer, bringing your employment problem to the Employment Relations Authority, or applying to the Employment Court.
Health and disability, or human rights issues
If Employment New Zealand thinks your problem is a health and disability or a human rights issue, they’ll refer you to the Health and Disability Commissioner or the Human Rights Commission.
- Bullying, harassment and discrimination — Employment New Zealand
- Discrimination against transgender people — Employment New Zealand
- Discrimination in the workplace — Disability rights — Community Law
- Migrant exploitation — Employment New Zealand
- Minimum wage
- Problems getting family violence rights — Employment New Zealand
- Retirement — Employment New Zealand