Workplace comments – sexual harassment or just for fun?


0115 9886211An employment tribunal in the North East of England has hit the headlines after a female employee claims that a colleague made comments about her appearance, and the role of women in general.

Ms Carney claims that she was forced to change the colour of her hair from blonde to brunette after her boss, John Clayton, made daily comments about the way she looked. Alleged remarks include whether or not he liked what she was wearing each day, commenting that she looked better on her social media profiles than in real life, and that he wished all employees looked like her, referring to her blonde hair and physical appearance. Mr Clayton also allegedly made comments that women were “best in the kitchen” and their role was better suited to “being at home”.

Dawn Carney was an employee of Darlington-based Star Radio, and was dismissed for her performance in the role of Commercial Director after taking time off for hospital treatment.

Mr Clayton now faces a claim of sexual harassment and unfair dismissal. The outcome of the employment tribunal is still unknown.

Irrespective of whether or not the claim is settled in Ms Carney’s favour, lessons can be learned about remarks made in the workplace, and whether these, regardless of intention, could be construed as sexual harassment.

Even comments made in jest can have a negative impact on one or more individuals, both male and female, which could have repercussions for not just the perpetrator, but also your business.

To help avoid the risk of claims you should:

  • Provide staff with policies on equal opportunities and harassment, setting out what constitutes acceptable behaviour and what doesn’t
  • Provide training on equal opportunities and harassment
  • Set up clear procedures for employees to raise concerns
  • Ensure that discriminatory behaviour is not tolerated and is addressed through disciplinary action
  • If you are an employer and you need guidance on how the law relates to sexual harassment, or if you have a situation you would like to discuss, please call our legal experts at Premier Legal on 0207 408 9427 or 0115 9886211.