Employers ‘Must Get Houses In Order’ On Discrimination

Tribunal Ruling Puts Spotlight On Policies


An employment law expert at Irwin Mitchell has called on employers to “get their houses in order” on discrimination, following the conclusion of a high-profile tribunal brought on racial grounds.

The hearing related to the case of a Polish welder who took action against an engineering company over both race and sexual discrimination, which included his claim that a colleague’s decision to give him the nickname ‘Borat’ was harassment and directly linked to his race.

In the judgment, it was ruled that the use of the name was both degrading and discriminatory, adding that it would not be used in relation to anyone else who was not believed to be of eastern European origin.

Employment law experts at Irwin Mitchell specialise in providing advice to businesses and organisations on a range of issues, including effectively tackling discrimination in the workplace.

Glenn Hayes, a Partner and employment law specialist at Irwin Mitchell’s Leeds office, said cases like this highlight why companies need to take every available step to protect themselves and workers from the impact of discrimination.

 He explained: “Harassment or discrimination in the workplace can have a hugely negative effect on a workplace, causing many workers to suffer emotional and occasionally physical distress, and cannot go unnoticed.

“As this tribunal highlights, employers need to make sure they have measures in place to deal with the issue. We would urge them to consider the creation of an equal opportunities policy, as well as the provision of training so that workers are fully aware of both the employer’s stance on the issue and the consequences of failing to meet it.

“While this plays a vital role in protecting members of staff, it also means that, in the event of a discrimination claim, employers are able to show they have done everything they can to address the issue and potentially avoid liability at a time when the compensation for discrimination claims are increasing.”

Glenn added that the use of such policies should also extend beyond in-house staff when third parties are regularly used.

He explained: “Companies and organisations that make use of contractors would also benefit from ensuring firms working on their behalf are aware of the standards expected of them in relation to the way they conduct themselves and of discrimination generally.  Again, this would send a strong message in terms of a zero tolerance stance on the issue and hopefully reduce the likelihood of problems.
“Ultimately, it is vital that employers provide clarity and a strong message in the workplace in order to tackle the issue and we would urge all organisations to get their houses in order before it is simply too late.”