Recently, an interesting article in Personnel Today appeared online. In this article, Steven Simmons ran through a list of 15 unusual forms of harassment that have been considered by Tribunals. The full article can be assessed through this link, but I have taken the liberty to summarise the 15 unusual forms of harassment below:
- Same sex harassment: A man discriminated against another man by making sexual comments and gestures, not all of which were directed at the claimant.
- Harassment by post: A postcard depicting a group of bare breasted black women, sent by a work colleague from South Africa to a black police officer in the UK amounted to racial harassment.
- Harassment by note kept on archived file: A gay barrister was discriminated against when he discovered a memorandum in an archive that made derogatory comments about his sexual orientation.
- Star Wars Nickname: Evidence of age bias against an older worker included banter related to his age, including his colleagues nicknaming him Yoda.
- Accidental harassment: A job applicant was subjected to harassment when he was accidently sent an internal email that he felt was dismissive of his application. A manager had accidentally replied to the job applicant rather than sending it to the employer’s recruitment team. Harassment can also occur if an individual accidentally overhears a comment, even if the perpetrator does not know that individual is listening.
- Teenager Jibe: In an age discrimination case brought by a young worker, the tribunal held that the manager’s use of the words “teenager” and “kid” to describe the claimant amounted to harassment.
- Subordinates bullying a manager: A common scenario for employers that operate in male dominated environments is that the male employees, who were not used to being managed by a woman, challenged the authority of a female manager which amounted to bullying.
- Facebook sabotage: Two members of staff took their heterosexual manager’s mobile phone, without his permission, and posted a comment on the status update on his Facebook page saying “I’m gay and proud”. This amounted to sexual orientation discrimination.
- Shouting across the room: The context of the remark can be critical. The EAT recently held that there was no religious harassment when a Catholic employee took offence that a colleagues expletive about the Pope shouted across a busy newsroom.
- Bottom slapping: In a sexual orientation harassment claim the tribunal found that when the restaurant in which the claimant worked was busy, the manager would “somewhat forcefully” direct waiters, sometimes by slapping their behind. Interestingly enough, although the manager had perhaps touched the claimant’s bottom, the Tribunal found that this was not the basis of the claimant’s sexual orientation.
- Speaking in a foreign Language: This case was in the end unsuccessful, but it is still a good example of some problems that can occur when colleagues insist on communicating in their first language to the possible exclusion of other workers who do not speak this language.
- Discriminatory graffiti: It is possible to claim that you have been harassed after simply reading graffiti on a wall. The complaint was made in relation to racist graffiti in the toilets.
- Toy helicopter and turban incident: In this case, the claimant argued that a colleague’s suggestion that a radio controlled toy helicopter, which was being flown around the office for laughs, landed on the flat surface of his turban amounted to religious harassment.
- Discrimination by fancy dress: An employment tribunal found that a gay employee was harassed at a workplace fancy-dress event, that he could not get out of, and that leant itself to banter of a sexual nature that could easily offend.
- Hat-based harassment: A Tribunal considered whether or not a manager harassed a black pub worker when he told him that he looked like a pimp when he was wearing a promotional St Patrick’s Day hat.
Practical Tips & Acas Guidance:
ACAS has published useful guidance on bullying and harassment in the workplace directed towards both employees and employers. You can access two guides through the below links:
Sofie speaks fluent Swedish and Chinese and graduated with a Chinese & Politics honours degree from School of Oriental and African Studies in 2005. She then spent a few years living and working in China before returning to the UK to qualify as a solicitor. In her free time she enjoys scuba diving, boxercise, running and travelling.
She can be contacted at +44 (0)1273 204411 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
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