Nicknames may seem like harmless fun and a part of traditional workplace banter. However, employers should beware. A nickname can represent a potential minefield if an employee finds their nickname offensive or humiliating.

Even well-intentioned nicknames can backfire against employers and can be used as evidence of discrimination in the workplace if seen to reinforce negative stereotypes or if perceived as demeaning by the recipient.

It is part of an employer’s duty of care to his or her employees to protect them from harassment. In particular nicknames relating to age, race, gender or gender reassignment, ethnicity, sexuality or disability can be used as evidence of discrimination and should be treated as totally unacceptable in the workplace environment.