In the case of Morgan v Halls of Gloucester a black delivery driver for a fruit and vegetable business brought a case against his employer for constructive dismissal and racial harassment after listening to his colleague being subjected to racist abuse.
Although the delivery driver, Mr Morgan, was not the subject of the racist abuse, he felt he could not continue to work in such a racist environment and so resigned and claimed constructive dismissal. Mr Morgan has now been awarded a total of £27,000 in compensation.
Mr Morgan’s colleague, Brian Ennis was subjected to a series of racial jibes and was frequently referred to as ‘black Brian’ and other serious racist nicknames. The tribunal found that Mr Morgan’s own dignity had been violated even though Mr Ennis had not complained about the treatment.
Amanda Miles, the owner of the fruit and vegetable business sought to justify the language used by stating that ‘black Brian’ helped to distinguish Brian Ennis from the other Brian who was white. Miles stated that ‘Brian Ennis did not have any issues. He is not shy and if he had wanted to bring up the names with me, he would have done so. He could hold his own’.
The tribunal did not accept this explanation and stated that Miles had ‘tolerated a culture of racism’ and that it had not occurred to Miles that she should curb this behaviour.
The £27,000 awarded combined loss of earnings of £14,286 and compensation for racial harassment totalling £13,427. Halls has since been placed into administration and so it is unlikely that Mr Morgan will receive his award.
The key point to take away from this case is that an employee can bring a successful claim for harassment even if the harassment was aimed at one of their colleagues. In order to satisfy the legal definition of harassment under the Equality Act 2010 the harasser must engage in unwanted conduct related to a protected characteristic that has the purpose or effect of violating the victim’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the victim. It is not a requirement that the harassment is directed at the victim.
Employers should ensure that employees are fully trained on equal opportunities and should send out a clear message to their workforce that discriminatory treatment, including racism, will not be tolerated. Employers should have an equal opportunities policy which is circulated to their employees and should ensure the principles are well practised.
Find out more about equal opportunities training here