The Fine Line Between ‘Banter’ And Racial Harassment

Last year, Azeem Rafiq accused Yorkshire County Cricket Club (YCCC) of racism, saying there was “institutional racism” at the club and a formal inquiry was launched.

Azeem Rafiq made a staggering 43 claims in total and subsequently, 7 of these claims were upheld. These claims were inclusive of players repeatedly using racially offensive terms towards him and the investigation concluded that he was the victim of racial harassment.

However, whilst the investigation revealed that at least one player admitted to using racially offensive terms, this player is insistent that he had no idea he was causing offence with his comments. The investigation has brought to light that many use racially offensive terms as ‘friendly banter’ without necessarily realising that these comments are creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.

It goes without saying that racial harassment has no place in sport, yet it is clear that many do not understand the consequences of ‘banter’ and what their unwanted comments and behaviour may actually amount to in the eyes of the law. Ultimately, the comments made towards Azeem Rafiq amounted to harassment under The Equality Act 2010 and they crossed the fine line between friendly ‘banter’ and unlawful racial harassment.

Establishing when racial discrimination has occurred

It is so important that employees are aware of what constitutes racial harassment in the workplace. It can often be hard to determine what qualifies as harassment because what one person believes to be harmless banter can be considered offensive by another and it is not uncommon for racially offensive terms or racist behaviour to be overlooked as they are portrayed as ‘jokes’ or ‘banter’. Continually overlooking this conduct can have a detrimental effect on employees though and in the case of Azeem Rafiq, the harassment he experienced left him close to taking his own life.

The Equality Act 2010 (EqA) is the key piece of UK legislation that covers issues involving discrimination, harassment and bullying at work. This piece of legislation lists ‘race’ as a protected characteristic and therefore, it provides protection to anyone who has suffered unfavourable treatment due to their race.

For many, the racial harassment they experience usually involves unsympathetic comments, jokes and gestures bearing negative racial connotations. This type of behaviour is understandably seen as offensive to those who are on the receiving end of it and is generally clearly recognised as harassment. However, there are also lots of less easy to identify scenarios that incorporate racially inappropriate behaviour and racially offensive terms in more subtle forms. It is these scenarios that many do not realise can still be constituted as harassment under employment law.

All employees need to know that when harassment falls into one of The EqA categories, a claim can be taken to an Employment Tribunal. So, if you are experiencing unwanted comments and/or behaviour due to your race, you should reach out to an employment law specialist for some tailored legal advice. Being treated in a manner that causes you emotional or physical suffering is unacceptable and you should not hesitate to take legal action against your employer, if applicable, to get the justice you deserve.

Speaking to an employment law specialist in London

If you are struggling to determine whether you have been experiencing racial harassment and would like to speak to an employment law specialist in London, please get in touch with Damian McCarthy today. Damian will gladly take the time to discuss The EqA with you in more detail and answer any questions that you may have in relation to acts of harassment. Damian has more than 20 years of experience handling complex employment law cases and you can trust that he is the best employment law specialist in London to turn to.

Should you decide to take a claim to the Employment Tribunal, this is something else that Damian can assist you with and he is known for fighting “tooth and nail” for his clients. Damian can work closely with you to develop a winning strategy that will get you results and he will be totally committed to your case. Unlike other employment law specialists in London, Damian will never settle your case because it is his interest to do so either and he is passionate about ensuring your interests are protected at all times.