Jonathan Moreland

Harassment in the workplace: Is an employee’s perception of their employer’s behaviour enough to bring a successful claim?

20
Apr

 

In a recent case, the Employment Appeal Tribunal was asked to consider whether how an employee perceives the behaviour and conduct of his employer is sufficient to turn that behaviour and conduct into unlawful harassment?

 

Background 

The Claimant in this case worked for Heathrow Express as a Security Guard.  Redline Security were engaged by Heathrow to carry out security checks at Heathrow Express Stations.  This involved, for example, creating and leaving suspicious objects to test how Security Officers responded to them.

In August 2017, Redline Security carried out a test using a bag containing a box, some electric cabling and, visible at the top, a piece of paper with the words “Allahu Akbar” written in Arabic. 

Following the test, an email was circulated to staff including the Claimant reporting on the results of the test and this email included images of the bag and the note.  The Claimant, being Muslim, was of the view that this amounted to either direct discrimination against him or harassment by reference to his religion. 

 

Decision

In the first instance, the Employment Tribunal concluded that the conduct did not amount to either direct discrimination or harassment.  They felt it was not reasonable for the Claimant to perceive the conduct as being harassment, as the Claimant should have understood that in using the phrase “Allahu Akbar”, Redline Security was not seeking to associate Islam with terrorism, but in the context of recent incidents in which the phrase had been used by terrorists, had used it in order to produce a suspicious item based on possible threats to Heathrow Express and the airport. 

The Claimant was unhappy with the outcome of his claim, so appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal on the grounds that the decision was either perverse or insufficiently reasoned.  The Employment Appeal Tribunal rejected the Appeal and found that the Claimant’s perception of his employer’s behaviour or conduct was just one of the matters for the Employment Tribunal to take into account when considering whether conduct amounted to harassment as defined by the Equality Act 2010.

In the circumstances, the Appeal was dismissed and the claim was unsuccessful. 

 

Takeaway

This case serves as a timely reminder to Claimants that how they perceive the behaviour and conduct of their employer does not automatically turn it into harassment. 

 

If you require guidance on this issue, or if you have any other queries in relation to Employment or HR law, please contact Jonathan Moreland by email at jmm@swinburnemaddison.co.uk or Sharney Randhawa at shr@swinburnemaddison.co.uk or call them 0191 3842441.

 

View All Articles >