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Human Rights Act

Making a Complaint About Discrimination

Gay New Zealand

The purpose of the Human Rights Act is to help ensure that people are treated fairly in a number of areas of public life. If you believe you have been discriminated against, you can ask the Human Rights Commission for Assistance

What is unlawful discrimination?

It is unlawful to discriminate against someone on the grounds of sex, marital status, family status, religious or ethical belief, race, colour, ethnic or national origins, age, disability, political opinion, employment status, family status and sexual orientation.

How do you ask for assistance?

You can telephone, visit or write to one of the Commission's offices, or someone from the Commission may be able to visit you at some other suitable place. There is no charge for the Commission's services.

What happens next?

A Complaints Office takes details of your complaint. The Commission can then proceed in two ways. It can try to settle your complaint immediately, or it can investigate first and then try to bring about a settlement.

If early settlement is unsuccessful, or is inappropriate, an investigation is begun. The person you have complained about is then informed of the details of the complaint, and of his or her right to respond to the allegations in writing.

An investigation is conducted in private. It may include talking to relevant parties and witnesses and looking at documents. The Complaints Officer then writes a report on the case for the Commission. Both sides have a chance to comment on information in the investigation report. The Commission will then form an opinion on whether there is substance to your complaint. If there is, it will try to settle the matter.

How does the Commission resolve a complaint?

Commission staff work with the parties to reach a settlement. They may call round table meetings, meet people on a one-to-one basis, and negotiate by phone, fax or letter. Settlements are varied, and may include compensation or apology, and an assurance against repetition.

What happens if a complaint cannot be resolved?

Where a settlement cannot be reached, the Proceedings Commissioner decides whether to take your complaint to an independent body called the Complaints or the Proceedings Commissioner decides not to take your matter to the Tribunal, then you can take it there yourself.

The Tribunal has the power of a Court. It hears the complaint from the beginning and makes a decision. If the decision is in your favour, it can award you damages and order other remedies.

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Last update: 3 January 2001
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