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Personal association - Workplace

It is against the law to discriminate against anyone in the workplace because they are personally associated with someone who has a protected characteristic under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010.

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

Example of personal association discrimination

Julia applies for a senior financial management position with a major bank. She is refused the job and the interviewer tells her that it is because the bank is a conservative body and would be uncomfortable with the fact that Julia’s brother is a trade union official.

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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