17 June 2016 #Employment
A criminal trial is currently underway at York Crown Court in relation to attacks made on a young Christian apprentice by his colleagues while he was working for a shop-fitting firm, Direct Interior Solutions (DIS).
The attacks took place on work premises and at other locations when the individuals were away on business. They included burning the victim, drawing religious symbols on him in permanent marker and tying him to a wooden cross suspended in the air. These attacks were dismissed by the perpetrators as “workplace pranks” and “banter”.
In this instance the individual made a complaint to the police, however, he could have also brought a claim against the individuals and DSI for religious discrimination in the Employment Tribunal.
Discrimination protection can extend to conduct outside the workplace, provided it takes place ‘in the course of employment’. Further, it protects a wide range of individuals, not just employees, which includes apprentices. DIS would have to show it took reasonable steps to prevent such discrimination occurring in order to avoid being vicariously liable for the acts of its employees.
Criminal acts do not negate vicarious liability, as we’ve seen from previous cases (see for example our previous blog on Mohamud v WM Morrison Supermarkets plc). Employers need to ensure that they do all they can to prevent such acts occurring. A clear anti-bullying policy and training to enforce this should be viewed as an absolute minimum.