No, there are different types of religious belief and political opinion discrimination, and it doesn’t have to be intentional to be unlawful. The main forms are:
- Direct discrimination is where you are treated worse than others, on grounds of your religious belief or political opinion, when a service provider:
- Refuses or deliberately fails to provide a service
- Provides a service of a lower quality, in a worse manner or on worse terms than is normally the case
For example: A customer in a local shop is ignored by the shop keeper who serves other customers before him. When finally served the shop keeper refuses to speak to or look at the customer. The shop keeper is aware of the customer’s political opinion.
- Indirect discrimination is where a service provider unjustifiably operates a rule or policy that looks the same for everyone but in effect disadvantages people from your religious belief or political opinion group.
For example: A school has a uniform policy which prevents pupils wearing items of clothing other than the set uniform. This policy could discriminate against young Sikhs, as they must be able to wear a turban at school as part of their religious belief.
- Harassment is where a person behaves in a way, based on religious belief or political opinion grounds, that violates your dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.
For example: A woman, who identifies as Pagan, works in a local fast food restaurant. Her neighbour’s teenage son, who is aware of her belief, regularly goes into the restaurant when she is working and makes jokes about her religious belief.
- Victimisation is where you have made a complaint of religious belief or political opinion discrimination or helped someone else make a complaint about a service provider under the fair employment and treatment law, and suffered as a result.
For example: A woman provides a witness statement in support of a person who has alleged sectarian harassment at the village community centre. She receives a letter informing her that she can no longer use the facilities, and no reason for the decision is provided
Over the past three years we have helped more than 700 people who have experienced some form of religious belief or political opinion discrimination.
Individuals have raised issues such as:
Refusal of services
You are protected from religious belief and political opinion discrimination in the provision of a wide range of services whether they are paid for or free. They include:
Access to public places
Facilities for education
Housing / Accommodation
Receiving or using services such as:
– Financial services – Banking / Insurance
– Government departments
Professional or trade services
However, there are limited circumstances where religious belief and political opinion discrimination is allowed.
Membership of political parties, associations and charities set up for people of a particular religious belief or political opinion group may be allowed to discriminate in some circumstances.
1. Contact our Discrimination Advice Officers who will provide you with free and confidential information and guidance to help you resolve your issue.
2. Raise your complaint directly with the service provider and seek a resolution.
3. If a resolution is not reached and you wish to take your case further we may be able to provide you with legal representation. You must lodge your complaint of discrimination with the County Court.
NB: Only a County Court decides whether the treatment you have complained of is unlawful discrimination. It is separate to, and independent from, the Equality Commission.
If you require assistance or would like to make a discrimination complaint, complete our online form or telephone 028 90 500 600 (10am-4pm, Mon-Fri).
Publications (in pdf format) relevant to religious belief and political opinion discrimination: