Aakifah Ali took a claim of sexual harassment and religious harassment to the Employment Tribunal after resigning from her role at fast-food restaurant; Pepe’s Piri Piri in 2018.
Whilst she was working for the restaurant, Miss Ali was made to feel uncomfortable by her assistant’s manager, Zoltan Szoke, whose behaviour had started to become inappropriate. During their shifts together, Mr Szoke would repeatedly touch her. On one occasion in June 2018, he grabbed her, held her arms in a tight grip and said he would close up early and she could take her clothes off and do a strip show for him.
The following month, the father of the restaurant owner; Arif Hussein made comments about her religion. Mohammed Hussein equated Wahabism to extremism and terrorism. Miss Ali spoke to Arif Hussein about his father’s comments, saying she did not feel safe in his presence as he was always making rude remarks, but nothing came of this.
Miss Ali resigned from her role in August 2018 after an error in her wages and she made it known in her resignation that she felt as though she had been targeted for many months and was the victim of workplace harassment and bullying. She referred to the fast-food restaurant as a toxic environment.
The Employment Tribunal Judge ruled that the behaviour of Mr Szoke was sexual harassment and that Miss Ali was sufficiently discomfited by what had happened. The judge also ruled that the comments made by Mohammed Hussein were religious harassment. Miss Ali was then awarded £23,408.20.
What do employees need to know about work harassment and bullying?
Like Miss Ali in the case above, any employee that experiences harassment at work will be protected by The Equality Act 2010. This act makes it unlawful to harass or bully someone in the workplace due to a number of different protected characteristics, including; gender, sexual orientation, religion and belief. Within The EA, harassment is defined as behaviour or comments that have the purpose or effect of violating someone’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.
Unfortunately, harassment and bullying in the workplace is often harder to determine as behaviour and comments can be interpreted differently between people and it can be difficult to establish what qualifies as harassment. That being said, it is important to note that what one person may believe to be harmless banter, can still be harassment and as an employee, you should not have to put up with any behaviour or comments that make you feel victimised. Regardless of whether the person conducting the harassment realises that they are doing so, employees are still entitled to take action.
Should you be experiencing unwanted conduct, whether this is behaviour of a sexual nature or comments about your religion, for example, the best thing to do is reach out to an employment law specialist. They will be able to advise you further and provide you with tailored guidance as to what you should do in your individual circumstances. If the workplace harassment and bullying you are experiencing falls into one of The EA categories, they can assist you should you wish to take a claim to the Employment Tribunal too, as Miss Ali did.
It is important to be aware that if you would like to make a claim for harassment or bullying, you must do so within three months less one day from the date that the behaviour or comments occurred. If the unwanted conduct has been ongoing, like in the case above, the time period will run from the most recent date of the behaviour or comments.
Speaking to an employment law specialist about workplace harassment
If you are being bullied or harassed at work and you are looking for an employment law specialist to turn to for assistance, please do not hesitate to contact Damian McCarthy. Damian is regularly instructed on high profile and complex discrimination claims and harassment claims, and he will gladly provide you with the legal advice you need. With two decades of experience behind him, you can trust that you will be in the best hands when you turn to Damian.
When taking a claim to the Employment Tribunal, Damian will represent you fearlessly too and he will develop a winning strategy that will get you results. You can be assured that, unlike other employment lawyers, Damian will not settle your case because it is his interest to do so and his main concern is what is in your best interests. So, get in touch to have a free, confidential and no-obligation discussion with Damian today.