Do not ignore third party harassment
18 July 2011
In Sheffield City Council v Norouzi, the EAT has held that the employer was liable under the Race Relations Act 1976 (RRA) for harassment carried out by a third party to one of their employees.
The employee, who is Iranian, was employed as a social worker at a home for troubled children. A child at the home was regularly offensive to him on racial grounds, mocking his accent and telling him to go back home. The employer was informed of the racial harassment directed at the employee, but did not act to prevent the behaviour. The employee went on sick leave and brought a harassment claim against his employer.
The EAT confirmed the case of R (Equal Opportunities Commission) v Secretary of State for Trade and Industry provides the legal basis for an employer to be liable under the RRA 1976 for the discriminatory conduct of a third party, where he knowingly fails to protect an employee from repetitive harassment by that third party.
With effect from 1 October 2010, the Equality Act 2010 (EqA 2010) replaces the RRA. For the purposes of the EqA 2010, an employer is liable for unwanted treatment (harassment) by employees to their colleagues. The employer must show that it took ‘all reasonable steps` to prevent the employee from doing the discriminatory act or from doing anything of that description, in order to defend such claims.
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