Sex discrimination and harassment at a work party

Sex discrimination and harassment at a work party

Sexual Harassment at a work function

A useful reminder from the Tribunals today about sexual harassment at a works party.  It’s not the fact of the harassment that’s interesting, it’s the observations made by the judge, which are a useful reminder to all Employers.

This particular event was a celebration at work where a 60 year old lady was the only female present. During the evening, she was subjected to a barrage of harassment which included grabbing her from behind, and slapping her bottom.

The employee complained and this is where it gets interesting. Instead of protecting her, the employer took no steps to protect her from those she made allegations against. She then reported that she was subject to jibes, and being ostracised at work by her colleagues.

The woman was compensated by £19,000 for the uncomfortable feelings she took away from this experience. The award is known as “Injury to Feelings”.

The judge observed several points:

  1. As this was a party for work colleagues, it was a work event, and not, as the employer claimed, in people’s private time.
  2. The employer had a duty to ensure safe and good order. It failed when it failed to appoint someone to stay sober and ensure behaviour when alcohol was present.
  3. An employer must protect an employee who complains about their treatment, from retribution or face the financial and PR consequences.

The best advice is to treat any complaint seriously.

If someone raises an issue which is in any way sensitive, such as the one in this case, agree with the employee how it should be investigated before taking any action.

If in doubt, the team at Sherbornes are here to guide you.

Fixed month retainer -Why not have an in-house lawyer for your business for as little as £100 per month?

Get in touch