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Industrial activity - Workplace

It is against the law to discriminate against anyone in the workplace because of their actual or assumed industrial activity.

Employees are protected from discrimination at all stages of employment including recruitment, workplace terms and conditions and dismissal

Industrial activity is where an employee participates in and/or is a member of an industrial organisation or industrial association. It also refers to their refusal to join and/or participate in such an organisation.

An industrial organisation includes an organisation of employees such as a trade union, an association of employers such as a local chamber of manufacturers or any other group established for people in a particular industry, trade, profession or business.

An industrial association is a group of employees formed to represent the views and interests of employees or employers in a particular industry, profession or business. An industrial association may be formed formally or informally.

Example of industrial activity discrimination

Zoë is a shop steward at a textiles factory. She takes two years off work to have children. When she decides to re-enter the workforce she telephones the personnel manager of her former employer. Zoë is told, "We don’t want union types around here. There’s no room for people like you in this company".

Are there any exceptions?

The Equal Opportunity Act 2010 includes some general exceptions. This means that discrimination may not be against the law in particular circumstances. 


Employers may be vicariously liable for their employees’ acts of discrimination or sexual harassment. Employers can also be directly liable. Find out more about who is liable for discrimination and harassment.

Employers also have a positive duty to eliminate discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation as far as possible.

Complaints of discrimination made to the Commission are resolved through a process called conciliation. Find out more about our process for resolving complaints.

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