And finally, the law relating to harassment is a minefield for employers to navigate. The fact that the law focuses on the effect of the conduct, not the nature of the conduct, makes it tricky. However, some comfort is found in the recent Employment tribunal decision in Perera v Stonegate Pub Company Ltd where it was held that an employer who laughed at an employee who fell over at work had not harassed them on racial or religious grounds.
The Judge said that the “slapstick element” of someone falling over was likely to cause laughter. To be regarded as harassment it had to have the purpose or effect of violating the employee’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the employee. Applying this test the Judge found that “The conduct itself, objectively, came nowhere near having the proscribed effect, and [the employee’s] view of matters was unreasonable.” He found that, although the employee’s perception had to be taken into account, the test was not satisfied merely because the employee thought it was.
Find out how we can help. Our partner, Jon Dunkley, heads the Wollens specialist Employment Department. Contact him today for an informal chat, without obligation on 01271 342268 or via email at [email protected].