Opinion

Employers can be liable for discrimination claims

As funny as it may sound, an employee calling someone (of Polish descent) 'Borat' can land the employer in hot water.

In Ruda v Tei Ltd, the Tribunal decided that the claimant, who was Polish, had been the subject of racial harassment because he had been given the nickname 'Borat' by another member of staff.

Mr R was a quality assurance engineer for Tei Ltd.  He brought a number of claims against his former employer in 2010, although the majority of the claims were rejected by the Tribunal, because the evidence of the company's witnesses was preferred to Mr R's.

Nevertheless, despite there being some considerable doubt over Mr R's credibility - due to him being "less than honest" with the Tribunal - his complaint of race discrimination as a result of being nicknamed Borat, was successful.

Mr R claimed that he had been given the nickname in 2007 by one of his subordinates, Mr S. Mr S admitted to this at the hearing. The Tribunal held that the nickname created a degrading and humiliating working environment for Mr R and that it constituted direct race discrimination.

The Tribunal also held that although Mr R had not complained about Mr S's conduct at the time, this was because he had only started work with the company in 2007 and feared he might lose his job.  The Tribunal accepted that the claim was nearly 3 years out of time, however, it decided to exercise its discretion to extend the time limit.  The claim was successful.

Employers are liable for the discriminatory acts of its employees unless they are able to demonstrate that they took all reasonable steps to prevent the conduct complained of.

This was first published in September 2011

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