A guide to making and responding to a complaint under the Human Rights Act 1993
[pic] October 2010
1. Introduction 2 The Human Rights Commission 2
2. Understanding discrimination and harassment 3 What is unlawful discrimination? 3 What is indirect discrimination? 4 What are the prohibited grounds covered by the Human Rights Act? 4 What is sexual harassment? 5 What is racial harassment? 6 What is “exciting racial disharmony”? 6 What are the areas of public life covered by the Human Rights Act? 7 Exceptions or justification 9 Discrimination authorised by law 9 Discriminatory laws 9
3. Resolving discrimination and harassment 9 What if someone feels they have been harassed or discriminated against? 9 How to make a complaint to the Commission 10 Can a person make a complaint if they have not been personally affected? 10 How are complaints assessed? 10 What happens when the Commission accepts a complaint? 11 What happens when a complaint is made against someone? 12 What are some likely outcomes? 12 Will people need a lawyer? 13 Will the Commission represent a complainant or take their side? 13 Is the dispute resolution process confidential? 13 How does the process protect against allegations of defamation? 13 What happens if a party does not honour a settlement? 13 What happens if a complaint cannot be resolved? 14 How are people protected against victimisation? 14 What if someone is not happy with how the Commission deals with their complaint? 14 What else can the Commission do to address discrimination? 14
4. Mediation meetings 15 What happens at a mediation meeting? 15 Preparing for a mediation meeting 15 How should mediation meetings be approached? 15 Where are mediation meetings held? 16 Who can come to a mediation meeting? 16 How long does a mediation meeting take? 16
5. Contacting the Commission 16
This guide has been prepared to assist people who are thinking about making a complaint of discrimination or harassment to the Human Rights Commission. It is also for people responding to a complaint that has been made.
The Human Rights Commission is an independent organisation that helps raise awareness about people’s rights and responsibilities. One of the Commission’s roles is to answer questions from the public about discrimination and harassment. It provides a free and confidential dispute resolution service to deal with complaints of unlawful discrimination.
The Commission responds to enquiries and complaints in an independent and impartial manner. It does not “take sides” or act on behalf of any party to a complaint.
This guide explains: • what constitutes unlawful discrimination and harassment under the Human Rights Act 1993 • what is involved in making or responding to a complaint • how complaints are resolved by the Commission • possible outcomes to a complaint • other options for pursuing a complaint.
Making or responding to a complaint of discrimination or harassment is a serious matter. It is normal for people to feel uncertain about what lies ahead. That is why Commission staff ensure everyone knows exactly what is involved, so people can make informed decisions at each stage of the process.
The Human Rights Commission
The Human Rights Commission is an independent Crown entity, responsible for administering the Human Rights Act 1993.
The Human Rights Act sets out the Commission’s major functions, which are to: • advocate and promote respect for, and an understanding and