Case Law round-up

  • Disciplinary
Third Party Harassment
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Peninsula Team, Peninsula Team

(Last updated )

Harassment can occur in a wide range of situations, even when there is no intention to cause any offence. Here are some interesting cases involving claims for harassment. 

Calling employee by the incorrect name amounted to harassment related to race

When a new director started working for the respondent, they arranged to spend the day shadowing the claimant. During the day, the director called the claimant the incorrect name on four occasions. The claimant brought a claim of harassment related to race.

The Employment Tribunal (ET) accepted the claimant had a genuine emotion and sensitivity about their name because it holds a significant meaning in Hindi. The action of misnaming the claimant was unwanted conduct that had the effect of violating the claimant’s dignity, and creating an atmosphere which was intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, and offensive. The ET held that it was related to the claimant’s race as the name the director used is one which has a direct connotation with race.

The claimant, therefore, won the harassment claim and was awarded £8,000 in injury to feelings and £1,329.23 in interest. A total of £9,329.23.

(Taneja v Phoenix Whirlpools Ltd)

Telling the claimant that they looked like a “frumpy grandmother/auntie” could be harassment

After the claimant was made redundant, they brought claims including unfair dismissal, direct race and sex discrimination, and harassment. The claimant alleged that the respondent had spread rumours about them and that they had not been considered for bonus. They claimed that the redundancy process and lack of support when the claimant was seeking indefinite leave to remain in the UK was discriminatory. The claimant also alleged that being told by the HR director that their trousers made them look like a “frumpy grandmother/auntie” was harassment.

The ET held that the claimant had not been subject to less favourable treatment, and it was a fair dismissal. The comment about the claimant’s trousers, however, was unwanted conduct related to sex because it was inherently linked to gender and had the purpose or effect of violating the claimant’s dignity. The ET, however, found that the incident was out of time so the harassment claim also failed. 

(Zhang v Greenland (United Kingdom) Investment Ltd)

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“Back in your day” comment could be unwanted conduct

The claimant, who was in their sixties, claimed that a younger colleague had said to them, “Well, back in your day it was probably free, but I would not get it free now” when discussing a form of elective surgery. The claimant brought a claim for harassment on the grounds of age.

The ET held that the “barbed and unwelcome” expression used to highlight an age gap could amount to unwanted conduct. However, in this case the ET found that there was no evidence that it was said at all and there were no details of the specific context in which it was alleged to have been said. Even if it was said, the ET were not satisfied that the claimant was significantly offended by it given that they waited to bring the claim until they were dismissed some time later for not wearing the correct PPE. The claim was, therefore, dismissed.

(Ms M Couperthwaite v Hilton Nursing Partners Ltd)

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