Discrimination and the Law’s Limits | LabourBlawg

Discrimination and the Law’s Limits

by Employment Blawg on October 7, 2023

Discrimination Law Blog By Amanda Hamilton, Patron. National Association of Licensed Paralegals

By Amanda Hamilton, Patron. National Association of Licensed Paralegals

In this country we have laws to protect individuals and, on the face of it, to offer equality for all.

In reality this is not the case. Sexism, homophobia, racism and misogyny still exists but are now hard to prove. So instead of being open about calling someone names, it is all done surreptitiously. Nobody will plainly speak out about their prejudice for fear of it being recorded or on video.

Discrimination or prejudice, in whatever form it takes, is in the eye of the beholder. In other words, if an individual feels that they have been the subject of prejudice it is an instinctive feeling and how they, as an individual, perceive it. Since the law states that there has to be some kind of evidence before any legal action can be taken, how can you prove a feeling or perception? It therefore becomes one person’s word against another.

The recent debacle at the Women’s’ World Cup final when the Spanish football federation president grabbed one of the players heads and gave her a kiss on the lips is a prime example that misogyny exists. When there was a media furore over this after the event, the president stated that it was consensual. How can that be? Did he whisper in her ear ‘can I give you a whopping great big kiss on the lips now?’ and did she respond: ‘Yes, of course you can’. No, of course not. He grabbed her head with both hands giving her no chance to pull away or give consent. Would he have done the same to a male player? I very much doubt it.

So, the conclusion is that this was a sexist or misogynistic action. But instead of apologising that it may have been inappropriate, he decided to fight for his ‘reputation’ stating that she was a liar.

All women have experienced some form of misogyny or sexism in the workplace. Whether it be an inappropriate touch or a throw away comment. When querying the impropriety of the action or comment the stock answer is to ‘lighten up’ or that you have no ‘sense of humour’.

This writer was shocked when in a talk show about the ‘kiss’ incident at the World Cup, some listeners who called in claimed that he was just ‘excited that the team won’ or that he kissed her ‘in the heat of the moment and what was the fuss all about’. I say again that the test would be whether he would have done the same to one of the players had it been the men’s team that had won? The answer is most definitely not.

I was recently informed about an incident that happened to a gay female friend who is very strong and independent. She heard raised voices coming from her garden and went outside to find out what was happening. She recognised the voice of her immediate neighbour who was in a discussion with her neighbour opposite. When she asked whether everything was alright, the neighbour opposite (a person she had never previously had any contact with) shouted aggressively at her to mind her own business. In the normal course of events, she may have taken that comment on the nose, but she perceived it to be more than just a throw away comment believing it had homophobic undertones. She was so upset by this incident that she felt it necessary to call the police anti-social behaviour team. They called round and promptly visited the neighbour in question, who obviously denied everything and just said it was a spat between neighbours.

My friend asked to see the police report and was shocked to read that the police had reported that there had been no homophobia as he, the neighbour had denied it! Why had they taken his word over hers?

The difficulty becomes apparent when as an individual you believe you have been subject to any kind of prejudice or discrimination because there is no way to prove it unless there happens to be concrete evidence, such as something in writing, a voice or video recording. Evidence is something that is easy to avoid if you are a perpetrator. All you have to do is to avoid saying or writing anything specifically derogatory.

Discrimination, like beauty, is in the eye of the perceiver. As a reasonable person, one knows whether a raised voice and/or aggressive action is aimed at you because you are gay, a woman or of ethnic origins.

Another incident was recounted to me by a female friend of colour who went for a job interview for which she was more than qualified and had plenty of experience. The interview went well although she did not get the role. This is not necessarily uncommon, but she confided in me a few days later that out of the three interviewers she definitely got a sense  that there was underlying prejudice from one of them. She shrugged it off as there wasn’t anything she could do about it, and because of who she is, I had no doubt that what she felt was instinctively correct.

So, while we do have laws that potentially giving us equality, there still remains an undercurrent of discrimination and prejudice that still affects a large section of our society.

So how can we affect a change?

Perhaps the best way is not to hesitate in making a complaint to the police under the umbrella of ‘Anti-Social Behaviour’ and insist that you see the police report. If, as happened to my friend, the report is inaccurate, you should then make a point of complaining further until the report is put right.

Attitude changes come through education. Officers who deal with such ‘anti-social behaviour’ should be trained to understand how a victim of such behaviour feels and to accept that they have a right to feel that way, rather than dismiss it outright because it is denied by the perpetrator – who is naturally going to deny it.

We all have a duty to step up to the plate in order to get the message across and constantly question any discriminatory comments or actions and prejudicial attitudes. These are inappropriate and unacceptable and have no place in modern society.


Amanda Hamilton is the Patron of the National Association of Licensed Paralegals (NALP), a non-profit membership body and the only paralegal body that is recognised as an awarding organisation by Ofqual (the regulator of qualifications in England). Through its Centres around the country, accredited and recognised professional paralegal qualifications are offered for those looking for a career as a paralegal professional.

Web: http://www.nationalparalegals.co.uk

Twitter: @NALP_UK

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NationalAssocationsofLicensedParalegals/

LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/company/national-association-of-licensed-paralegals/

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