Racial Discrimination in the Workplace: Complaints to the Human Rights Commission

The recent news reports of student nurse Linda Tang taking UNITEC to the HRC shows that not much has changed in New Zealand since the HRC issued a media release in March of 2007, the text of which is reproduced in parenthesis below.

Indigenous people as well as migrants were discriminated against and the issue of foreign accents was just as much of a problem then as it is now.

Complaints about racial discrimination in the workplace remain of concern

Complaints about racial discrimination in employment made up almost one third of the 190 race related complaints dealt with by the Human Rights Commission last year. The figures have been published in the Commission’s annual review of race relations released today.

Workplace complaints made up 20 per cent of race related complaints in 2005 up from 16 per cent in 2004. In one case a Russian teacher of English was refused a job on the grounds that she lacked local experience. A number of overseas trained doctors complained about the difficulty of obtaining New Zealand registration.

The number of complaints about racial harassment continues to grow. In 2006 they constituted 24 per cent of race related complaints compared to 19 per cent in 2005 and 15 per cent in 2004. One case of harassment involved a religious minister who mimicked a recent migrant’s accent during an incident involving a parking space.

Accommodation continues to be an area where discrimination persists. In one case a Korean landlord said he would only accept Korean tenants. In another a landlord agreed to rent a property over the phone but rescinded the offer when he discovered the person was Maori.

There were few complaints about comments made in the media. The Press Council considered only one complaint based on race, the BSA considered two complaints. No complaint was upheld.

In all the Human Rights Commission received 491 race related complaints last year. Of these 301 were resolved in the early stages, many by the provision of information and advice from the Commission.