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Racism can take many forms, such as jokes or comments that cause offence or hurt, name-calling or verbal abuse, harassment or intimidation, or commentary in the media or online that inflames hostility towards certain racial groups. Racism can also take the form of unfair treatment of people because of their race.

The Racial Discrimination Act makes racism that amounts to discrimination against the law. Racial discrimination is when a person is treated less favourably, or not given the same opportunities, as others in a similar situation, because of their race, the country where they were born, their ethnic origin or their skin colour.

Racism that is racial hatred can also be against the law. Racial hatred is doing or saying something in public, including in the workplace, based on the race, colour, national or ethnic origin of a person or group of people, which is likely to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate.

Examples: Making racist comments on blogs and social networking sites; displaying racist posters or cartoons in the workplace, or calling people racist names in the workplace.

The Act contains exemptions to protect freedom of speech.

Employers can be liable for discrimination and harassment by their employees of other staff, clients and customers. This is called ‘vicarious liability’.