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 because of your religious belief or political opinion.
For example: A potential student applies to a university for a course that has only one place left. Her application is declined because of her religion and the successful student of a different religion is offered the place even though she has fewer qualifications than is required for entry.
Indirect discrimination is where a university/institution of further and higher education 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 university’s admission policy includes a criterion to provide preference to requests for admissions to people born in Northern Ireland. This criterion restricts the number of applicants from other countries and could result in disadvantaging different religions.
Harassment is where a person behaves in a way, on religious belief or political opinion grounds, which violates your dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.
For example: An institute of further and higher education makes no attempt to stop or remove sectarian graffiti being displayed in the toilets. This is creating an intimidating educational environment.
Victimisation is where you have made a complaint of religious belief or political opinion discrimination or helped someone else with a complaint under the fair employment and treatment law, and suffered as a result.
For example: In recent years a student applied for benefits to assist with his studies and was always successful, this year he is refused access to benefits as he was a witness for a student in a court hearing.
Over the past three years we have helped over 700 people who have experienced some form of religious belief or political opinion discrimination.
Individuals have raised issues such as:
Terms and conditions
Subject to other detriments
You are protected from religious belief and political opinion discrimination in a university or institution of further and higher education:
Applying for admission
Access to benefits
Exclusion from the establishment.
However, there are limited circumstances where religious discrimination and political opinion discrimination is allowed:
The provision of goods, facilities and services provided by:
Training provided for employment or occupation of a clergyman or minister of religion
College of education
What can I do myself?
1. Contact our Discrimination Advice Officers who will provide you with free and confidential information and guidance. Should you decide to take your case to court, you can ask for us to provide legal representation.
2. Raise your complaint directly with the organisation and seek a resolution.
3. Go directly to court with your own legal representative to lodge a complaint of discrimination.
How can the Equality Commission help me?
1. We provide advice and assistance.
2. We provide legal representation in a limited number of cases.
Only a 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: