The main purpose of the Employment Equity Act is to achieve equity in the work place by promoting equal opportunity and fair treatment in employment by eliminating unfair discrimination and implementing affirmative action measures to address the disadvantages in employment experienced by designated groups. The goal is to ensure that there is equitable representation in all occupational categories and levels in the workplace.
It is important to understand that when the Act speaks of a designated employer it speaks to employers who employ 50 or more employees or has a total annual turnover as reflected in Schedule 4 of the Act. Designated groups means black people; women or people with disabilities.
- Prohibition of Unfair Discrimination . The Act stipulates that no person may unfairly discriminate, directly or indirectly, against an employee in any employment policy or practice on one or more grounds including:
- Marital status
- Family responsibility
- Ethnic or social origin
- Sexual orientation
- HIV status
- Political opinion
- It is not unfair discrimination to promote affirmative action consistent with the Act or to prefer or exclude any person on the basis of an inherent job requirement.
- Medical testing of an employee is permissible only when legislation requires testing or when this is justifiable for various reasons.
- HIV testing is prohibited unless such testing is determined to be justifiable by the labor court.
- Psychological testing and similar assessments are prohibited unless the test is scientifically valid and reliable and can be applied fairly to all employees and is not biased against any employee or group.
- Should an employee or applicant for employment feel it necessary they may refer a dispute concerning alleged unfair discrimination to the CCMA for conciliation. This must b done within six months of the alleged discrimination. If a dispute is not resolved at conciliation, a party may refer it to the labor court for adjudication. The parties to a dispute may also agree to refer the dispute to arbitration.
- Unfair dismissal disputes in which unfair discrimination is alleged must be dealt with in terms of the Labor Relations Act. The dismissal must be referred to the CCMA within 30 days.