Harassment In The Workplace
Thursday 10th October 2019
The Employment Appeal Tribunal, in the case of Raj v Capita Business Services Ltd & another, considered if a female manager massaging the shoulders of a male subordinate on a number of occasions in an open plan office amounted to harassment.
Mr Raj made a number of claims following dismissal on performance grounds. His claims included;
- that he had been subject to unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which had the purpose or effect of violating his dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.
- that he had been subject to unwanted conduct relating to his gender, which had the purpose or effect of violating his dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.
At the first instance Tribunal hearing, both of the above claims were dismissed: the first on the grounds that, whilst the conduct may have been unwanted, it was not consistent with sexual behaviour; the second was dismissed on the basis that the conduct was not related to his gender. Mr Raj made an appeal regarding the second claim on the basis that the Tribunal had made an error in applying the law.
Decision and comment
The Employment Appeal Tribunal dismissed Mr Raj’s appeal. It held that Mr Raj had failed to show that the unwanted conduct related to his gender and that the Respondents had provided evidence that the unwanted conduct was “misguided encouragement” and therefore was unrelated to Mr Raj’s gender.
When dealing with any allegations of harassment, it is important that the full facts and circumstances surrounding any allegations are established. Even when dealing with what may appear to be fairly innocuous interactions in the workplace, employers should ensure a thorough investigation takes place to establish whether there are grounds for a successful claim of harassment or not.
Employers can be found vicariously liable for the actions of their employees in instances of harassment, unless it can be shown that all reasonable steps were taken before the act to prevent it. In order to rely on this defence employers should hold regular training on conduct in the workplace and have clear polices which set out that harassment will not be tolerated.