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Support offered to employers when dealing with racist remarks

Published On: March 15th, 2024By

An Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has recently supported an employer’s decision to dismiss a long-serving employee who posted a racist joke on their intranet.


The employee posted a racist joke on their employer’s intranet – they apologised for their actions and also had a long, flawless service record. Regardless, the employer decided to dismiss them for gross misconduct. The employee claimed unfair dismissal. The initial tribunal found that anything more than a final written warning fell outside the band of reasonable responses because of the apology and service record.

The EAT disagreed and found that the dismissal was a reasonable response.

Practical takeaways 

Zero-tolerance – taking a zero-tolerance approach to racism or any other non-inclusive behaviour sends a strong cultural message as to what your business expects. The EAT made it clear that the approach is a reasonable response.

Reasonable response – this case doesn’t mean that all dismissals connected to racist acts will be fair by default. You’ll still need to show you considered mitigating circumstances and explain why you considered a final written warning to be insufficient in the circumstances.

Records and process remain important – clearly, if your decision-making process is flawed or you don’t have the records to show why you dismissed, the decision is likely to be unfair.

Making a cultural shift – if you’re inconsistent in your decision-making (you dismiss in one circumstance and not in another, for example), the decision will again be unfair unless you have good reasons for the different treatment (which are recorded). We’d recommend early advice to support with new documents, training and manager support if you want to adopt a different culture, perhaps one of zero tolerance. You must ensure all employees are on the same (new) page before holding anyone to account.

As always, securing straight-talking advice early is your best bet – we’re here to help!

This update is accurate on the date it was published, 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.