Mediation the best way to resolve discrimination disputes

Complaints including one from a girl with an intellectual disability excluded from school camp and a woman who discovered she was being paid a lower hourly rate than two male colleagues, feature in Te Rito, a publication released today.

The case studies of 21 complaints about discrimination illustrate how the Human Rights Commission resolves the disputes it receives. Each year the Commission receives around 6000 new human rights enquiries and complaints, of which about 1300 raise issues of unlawful discrimination which the Commission seeks to resolve through its free and confidential disputes resolution service.

Breakdowns in communication often played a large part in complaints, and mediation provided a way of parties being able to share their points of view in a safe, impartial environment.   “People often come to the Commission asking us to investigate,” says Chief Mediator Cara Takitimu. “We find mediation is better suited to dealing with complaints of alleged discrimination which can be sensitive and more complex that they first appear. It’s also easily adapted to meet the various needs of the parties involved.”

Outcomes depend on the nature of the complaint, but range from a pay increase and back pay to apologies and a positive work reference.

Making the complaints process accessible has been a key priority for the Commission. Videoconferencing, for example, is being used more frequently for parties who live in different areas, even overseas.  Complaint forms are available in a number of languages, and interpreters for 43 languages are also available through Language Line, a service run by the Office of Ethnic Affairs. The Commission is also looking to release a New Zealand Sign Language complaint form, where complainants can sign their complaints via internet video, later this year. Te Rito will be published as a Word and HTML document to ensure accessibility.

Click here for Te Rito Human Rights Case Studies

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