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Discrimination

Tribunal decision – ‘bald’ insult was sex-related harassment

Posted on: May 19th, 2022 by Halborns Limited

Calling a colleague a “bald (expletive)” during an argument was found to be sex-related harassment in a recent tribunal decision.

Background 

An employee called a “bald (expletive)” by his supervisor has successfully sued his employer for sex-related harassment. The tribunal held that the “bald” insult was “inherently related to sex” – women can experience baldness, but it’s much more prevalent in men and this was sufficient to amount to sex-related harassment.

Practical takeaways

People policies – it goes without saying that ensuring you have the right policies and processes in place is the starting point – think ‘dignity and respect at work’, ‘bullying and harassment’ (we’ve got everything you need on Intelligent Employment).

Training – policies need to be trained on and communicated regularly to be effective in setting appropriate boundaries. Employees should be aware that just because something can be experienced by both males and females, tribunals (like in this case) will be willing to uphold claims for sex-related harassment if it’s more prevalent in one sex than the other. It’s also a worthwhile reminder that managers can be sued personally for harassment so training provides a great opportunity to avoid personal liability.

Zero-tolerance – harassment without consequence breeds a culture of further harassment. Even with the right policies and training an acceptance of harassment is highly likely to lead to claims and compensation. Act quickly, investigate thoroughly and deal with all harassment concerns consistently.

We can help to make sure you’ve got the right policies, training and advice in place – get in touch to find out how

 

This update is accurate on the date it was sent (19 May 2022), but may be subject to change which may or may not be notified to you. This update is not to be taken as advice and you should seek advice if anything contained within affects you or your business.

‘It was just banter’ – tribunal decision

Posted on: March 8th, 2022 by Halborns Limited

A tribunal has once again confirmed that ‘it was just banter’ is no defence against a claim of discrimination and harassment.

Background

An employee suffered regular comments from colleagues about being an “old white man” and too old and lazy for his job. He’d made a written complaint to the company owner stating the “slurring abuse” was causing stress and sleepless nights. The owner dismissed the alleged behaviour as just being “banter” and took no steps to resolve the complaint. The tribunal disagreed finding that the behaviour created a hostile and intimidating working environment amounting to harassment. The company was liable for age and race discrimination and ordered to pay more than £22,000 in compensation.

Practical takeaways

Zero-tolerance – act quickly, investigate thoroughly, and deal with all harassment and discrimination concerns consistently. Regularly communicate your policies to set your standard (think diversity and inclusion, bullying and harassment) and be sure to follow through on penalties on every occasion.

Training – equality, diversity and inclusion training should form a regular feature in your training schedule. Not only does it set the standard of what’s expected of employees (reducing potential litigation risk), it also gives you an opportunity to show a tribunal that you’ve taken reasonable steps to prevent harassment from occurring and that any claims should be against the accused individual/s.

We can help with making sure you’ve got the right training and policies in place – get in touch for more detail.

 

This update is accurate on the date it was published (08 March 2022), but may be subject to change which may or may not be notified to you. This update is not to be taken as advice and you should seek advice if anything contained within affects you or your business.

Refusal to use preferred gender pronouns

Posted on: March 2nd, 2022 by Halborns Limited

An employment tribunal has found that a doctor’s refusal (due to his Christian faith) to use clients’ preferred gender pronouns is not a protected philosophical belief under the Equality Act 2010. Therefore his dismissal did not amount to discrimination. The decision is being appealed.

Background

A doctor was dismissed because he refused to identify clients by their preferred gender pronouns, instead insisting on using pronouns related to the sex clients were assigned at birth. He argued that he’d been discriminated against because his views were based on his Christian faith. The tribunal held that his view was not protected by the Equality Act 2010 (EQA) as it was “mere opinion” (as opposed to a philosophical belief). As a result the dismissal from his employment was not discriminatory.

Appeal

The appeal is being heard by the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) on 28 and 29 March so we’ll update you with the practical impact as soon as we know the outcome. The tribunal’s decision in this case does appear to conflict with an EAT decision last year where a belief in there only being two sexes in human beings was held to be a genuine philosophical belief and protected from discrimination under the EQA.

What next?

This case highlights the challenges in balancing the rights and views of different employees. Irrespective of the appeal outcome, ensuring you have a robust dignity at work and equal opportunities policy in place is a great starting point. Lead from the top, train regularly, and reinforce what’s acceptable, encouraged, and where to raise concerns.

We can help with the right policies and training – get in touch.

 

This update is accurate on the date it was published (03 March 2022), but may be subject to change which may or may not be notified to you. This update is not to be taken as advice and you should seek advice if anything contained within affects you or your business.