Sexual Harassment and Sex Discrimination in the workplace
Hardly a day goes by without us hearing about another incident of sexual harassment and sex discrimination in the workplace. Some of these are historic incidents that only come to light when a celebrity is accused, but each week, almost without fail, we will be contacted because of a sexual harassment claim. I would have thought that the prevalence of such issues would be going down, but it is clearly increasing, perhaps because women feel more empowered to step forward than they have previously. Whatever the reason it is clear that all businesses need to have a strong policy and training in place if they want to avoid being responsible for someone else’s actions.
If something happens at your business you are going to be responsible for it, under the doctrine of vicarious liability. In other words you are responsible for your staff member’s actions. Your only defence or mitigation is to be able to show that you took appropriate measures to make sure that all of the team were aware that what they were doing was wrong, that you had a policy in place and that you had provided sufficient training.
What constitutes harassment?
There is a very clear definition or what constitutes harassment in the Equality Act 2010, which tells us that it is any unwanted conduct of a sexual that violates the dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. So we can see from this that there is a fairly wide scope anything from unsubtle comments to unnecessary touching. Take a look at this recent report of a case involving a young lady at Pizza Hut who picked up £16,000 for unwanted attention – click here to see the report at Personnel Today
Our own recent case
I can’t reveal names on one of our recent cases as the matter was anonymised by the Employment Judge, but we have a haulage company that offered a female driver a very well paid job, what they didn’t explain was the extras that may be required – after rebuffing her bosses advances and being told that she needed to be more “adaptable”, the driver was fired. Needless to say that the unanimous verdict of the tribunal was that there had been sexual harassment and that the dismissal was sex discrimination. In this case the claimant won on sexual harassment and sex discrimination in the workplace.
In the news
There are dozens of cases of harassment in the news, from the high profile personalities to companies such as O2, Nike and various councils and while you might think that as a company you are not sexist in any way, can you be completely sure that the same applies to all of your staff.
How can we help?
Premier Legal can provide robust policies and procedures as well as diversity training for your staff – call us on 0115 856 1625 to discuss your needs.