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Unfair Treatment at Work

Probably we all thought at least once “Life isn’t fair!” That is because we are born with a strong inner sense of fairness and a strong desire to fight for our rights when we have been treated unfairly.

We can try to figure out one situation as follow:  let us assume that you are a conscientious worker on your job. You get to work early, you are careful not to extend your lunch breaks, and sometimes you stay late on your own time to finish an expected urgent task. You are careful not to waste company time with excessive chitchat. You work hard and produce for the company and yet when opportunities come available you are passed over and wrongfully treated….so you think Life is not fair!

The important question is, “How do you respond when you’re treated unfairly?” How should you respond? Is it wrong to defend yourself or to stand up for your rights?

I know, the workplace should be somewhere you can rely on being treated fairly and with respect – not somewhere you dread going every day because you feel bullied or victimised. Workplace bullying and discrimination can cause many problems for the workforce in general: millions working days are lost each year for work-related illness and stress is being one of the illnesses blamed for absences.

You should know that any type of behaviour that makes you feel intimidated or offended could be construed as harassment – and is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.  Of course, there are many forms of unfair treatment or harassment, and these include:

  • Treating you unfairly
  • Denying you opportunities for promotion or training for no reason
  • Make you always worry or guilty of something not strictly related with your responsibilities
  • Spreading malicious rumours about you among colleagues and clients
  • Picking on you
  • Undermining you on regular base, even though you’re perfectly competent and engaged at your job


The BAD news is that law on bullying and harassment is quite difficult to interpret, so if you feel you are being badly treated at work and need some help, a good employment rights adviser might be your first port of call. You should remind it is not actually illegal to bully someone (I know, is sad), although it is against the law to harass them!!!. Here lies the crux of the matter: the distinction comes when the unwanted behaviour is related to:

  • Gender
  • Disability
  • Age
  • Sex
  • Race
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Marriage and/or civil partnership
  • Religion or belief
  • Sexual orientation

If your manager just takes a dislike to you and makes your working life like hell, you do have other courses of action that you can take to rectify the issue, but remember that the law takes discrimination more seriously than a clash of personalities or a mean boss.

If you are bullied, your first course of action is to informally approach a line manager or your human resources department: make notes of any incidents that have caused you distress and any examples of bad treatment or bullying. If you have a union rep or HR department, they might be able to intervene on your behalf, and try to resolve the problem. It could be that the manager does not realise they are offending you, or does not mean to be unfair. The best is to have a proof (written) or a witness who can confirm your version, of course, no one will be available to do so to avoid being himself a victim of the same strategy called mobbing....

If the bullying is not discriminatory, but it gets so bad that it results in you being forced to leave your job, you might have a case for constructive dismissal, in which case you would be able to take your employer to a tribunal.

Constructive dismissal is when an employer’s conduct forces you to resign, and the behaviour must be serious, for example changing your working conditions or allowing you to be bullied or harassed.

Depending on Country, you can ask the help of Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) or present your case to the Employment Tribunal; instead, if you have been discriminated against, you might be able to get support with your claim from the Equality Advisory Support Service.