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Religiously motivated attacks on apprentice dismissed as ‘workplace pranks’ by perpetrators

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. 

Clarkslegal, specialist Employment lawyers in London, Reading and throughout the Thames Valley.
For further information about this or any other Employment matter please contact Clarkslegal's employment team by email at by telephone 020 7539 8000 (London office), 0118 958 5321 (Reading office) or by completing the form on this page.
This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.

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Louise Keenan

Louise Keenan

T: 0118 960 4614
M: 0779 900 7325


Employment team
+44 (0)118 958 5321