Discrimination in the Military

Bolt Burdon Kemp’s military claims team regularly represents armed forces personnel who have been discriminated against at work.

The discriminatory behaviour we have seen ranges from being passed over for promotion to jibes and insults about a protected characteristic and even very serious assaults.

Our expert team of military claims solicitors is highly experienced at winning compensation for victims of discrimination. We will always find the most suitable funding arrangement, so please get in touch today.

Protected characteristics

Everyone has the right to be treated the same at work. It is against the law for a service man or woman to be discriminated against by colleagues or superiors because of one of the protected characteristics defined by law:

  • Sex: whether you are a man or a woman, or transgender
  • Sexual orientation: whether you are gay, lesbian, heterosexual or bisexual. You can even be discriminated against if your colleagues perceive you to have a particular sexual orientation and treat you differently, even if their perception is wrong
  • Race or nationality: whatever your colour, nationality, ethnicity or national origin
  • Religion: whatever you may or may not believe. There is no defined list of what a religion is, but most philosophical beliefs that are genuinely held will be protected by law. Humanism and atheism are examples of philosophical beliefs

The law does not allow military personnel to bring discrimination claims relating to disability as it does in most other workplaces. Civilian employees of the Ministry of Defence or other contracting organisations such as NAAFI, however, can do so.

Types of discrimination

There are four main types of discrimination:

  • Direct discrimination: when a person is treated differently because of one of the protected characteristic, listed above. For example, not promoting a woman simply because she is a woman
  • Indirect discrimination: when a policy, practice or procedure has the effect of discriminating against a person’s protected characteristics, even if that effect is unintended. Where there is no legitimate reason, this will amount to indirect discrimination
  • Harassment: when a person is subjected to unwanted conduct which is related to a protected characteristic. A claim for harassment will be viable if this conduct has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment
  • Victimisation: when a person is treating someone differently because they have raised or supported a complaint about any type of discrimination

Equality and diversity in the military

The military publishes regulations about equality and diversity in the workplace, as well as procedures for complaints and redress. These are meant to address discrimination in situations such as:

  • Recruitment
  • Pay and benefits
  • Training and development
  • Promotion
  • Discipline and service complaints

If you have experienced discrimination across any of the above, then you may have a claim.

Bringing a discrimination claim against the military

It is very rare for the military or any employer to be able to justify discrimination, but this will depend on the circumstances of the case. It is essential that victims of discrimination obtain early advice from our specialist team as soon as possible.

Claims for discrimination are normally brought in the Employment Tribunal, where strict time limits apply. You will normally have to raise a service complaint before you are entitled to proceed in the Employment Tribunal.

It takes courage to complain about discrimination, especially in the military, but you should not suffer in silence.

If you have suffered from discrimination, please contact us and talk to one of our team without charge or obligation.

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