Whether it’s Brexit, coronavirus restrictions, or Megan and Harry – we’re all being encouraged to voice our opinion. In an employment context, differences of opinion or clumsy arguments can cause legal liability.
When does free speech cross the line and amount to harassment?
The right to free speech is enshrined in human rights legislation. That legislation works alongside the Equality Act 2010 which sets out clearly behaviour that amounts to harassment.
The legal definition of harassment (paraphrased) is simply unwanted conduct about a protected characteristic (such as age, race or disability) that makes another person feel humiliated, degraded or offended. So, in an employment context, ill-framed or offensive remarks about race, disability, age or any other protected characteristics can amount to harassment even if not intended to insult. And, as an employer, you can be liable for such offensive remarks.
With liability for harassment claims unlimited and reputational damage wide-reaching, in our next email update, we explore how you strike the right balance between supporting free speech and avoiding harassment claims.
If you’d like support with promoting equality, diversity and inclusivity, please get in touch here for further advice.