Whilst they are at work, both employees and employers alike need to be conscious of what they are saying. It is a huge misconception that discrimination in the workplace only occurs when a person is treated unfairly, but this definitely is not the case, especially when it comes to sex discrimination, and the words you say can have more of an effect than you may initially realise.
In case you are not aware, The Equality Act 2010 is a key piece of legislation that covers issues involving discrimination at work and this legislation actually recognises several different forms of discrimination, including; direct discrimination, indirect discrimination and also harassment and victimisation. So, in addition to someone being treated in a way that is clearly less favourable than others due to their gender, they may also be the victim of sex discrimination if they have been spoken to in a way that causes them emotional suffering due to their gender.
Generally speaking, it can sometimes be quite difficult to determine if the language being used in the workplace is actually unlawful as those making the unsympathetic and unwanted sexist comments might not realise the harm that they are causing. However, they can sometimes still be taken to the Employment Tribunal and just because someone thinks what they are saying is ‘banter’ or a joke does not mean that it is not discriminatory.
If you have always shrugged off the comments made by your colleagues or managers that have caused you to feel uncomfortable, you may have a discrimination case on your hands and it is important to be aware that you are protected under The Equality Act 2010 in this regard. To give you an example of a sex discrimination claim that solely involves verbal discrimination, below we have looked into a recent case that was taken to the Employment Tribunal.
What happened in this case?
A female Barclays investment banker has won the sex discrimination claim against her manager, Mr Kinghorn, that she took to the Employment Tribunal.
Back in February 2018, Ms Lacatus’s manager repeatedly used the word ‘bird’ to refer to a female colleague. Even after Ms Lacatus told him that he should not be using that language and that he should stop, Mr Kinghorn continued to use the word, making her feel uncomfortable. Ms Lacatus said that on one occasion, Mr Kinghorn even told her not to report him to HR for the language he was using when referring to females.
At the Employment Tribunal, Mr Kinghorn tried to defend calling female colleagues ‘birds’ by saying it was intended to be light-hearted and humorous. However, the Judge ruled in favour of Ms Lacatus and said that the language used was inappropriate and referring to females in the workplace as ‘birds’ is sexist language.
The judge also said that it was foolish to assume that anybody would find this language amusing and that the word ‘bird’ inadvertently caused offence in the workplace. There will be a hearing to decide compensation for Ms Lacatus at a later date.
Getting some employment law advice in London
All in all, it is fair to say that if comments are being made at your expense in the workplace or words and terms are being used that make you feel uncomfortable, you do not simply have to put up with this. The case above is proof that you can win a sex discrimination claim that is based on unwanted verbal conduct and physical conduct is not required to be taken seriously by the Employment Tribunal. So, if you have experienced sexist language in the workplace, you should not hesitate to get some tailored legal advice.
Damian McCarty will be able to assist you further in this regard and there is no one better to turn to for employment law advice in London. With many years of experience behind him, Damian will be able to answer any questions that you may have regarding your experience of discrimination in the workplace. Damian specialises in high profile employment law cases and he has worked on a number of discrimination claims in the past, some of which have been very complex, so you can trust that he will have the capabilities to be able to help you.