Employer not liable for harassment, despite employee making racist remarks to colleague
A recent case in the Employment Tribunal has highlighted the importance of employers taking reasonable steps to prevent employees from carrying out discriminatory actions, as this can then help protect the employer from legal action in subsequent claims.
The Claimant worked for Leeds City Council, and described as being a black Afro-Caribbean man. His supervisor made racist and discriminatory remarks to him and in front of him.
After the Claimant had attempted to resolve matters by using the Council’s grievance procedure, he then raised claims of racial discrimination and harassment against both his supervisor and Leeds City Council, on the grounds that employers can be vicariously liable for the actions of their employees. However, at a Preliminary Hearing, the Employment Tribunal accepted that the Council had shown it had taken all reasonable steps to prevent the supervisor from making racist comments, and so the claims against the Council were dismissed. At the full hearing, the Tribunal ordered the supervisor to make an injury to feelings payment to the Claimant.
The interesting article is a timely reminder of the importance of staff training on matters such as workplace culture and diversity training. While we do not have the details of exactly what steps the Council had taken to break the chain of vicarious liability, staff training is a key way to demonstrate an organisation’s zero-tolerance approach to unwanted behaviours of discrimination and harassment.
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