UK: Brain food - Workplace rights - Thin (blue) line.

UK: Brain food - Workplace rights - Thin (blue) line. - A female employee is standing at an office noticeboard. On it is a picture of an extremely large woman. A male colleague sidles up and says: 'So this is what you do at weekends!' Fat chance of a sex

by ALASTAIR BRUNKER at Lewis Silkin, solicitors.
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

A female employee is standing at an office noticeboard. On it is a picture of an extremely large woman. A male colleague sidles up and says: 'So this is what you do at weekends!' Fat chance of a sexual harassment claim there, you might think.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT), however, recently thought otherwise and awarded £750 for injury to feelings.

So, when does a particular conduct become sexual harassment? Elaborating on a European Code of Practice on the subject, EAT defines such harassment as 'words or conduct which are unwelcome to the recipient' and which 'undermine the victim's dignity at work and create an 'offensive' or 'hostile' environment for the victim'. Even if the words or conduct take place outside office hours.

When Detective Sergeant Derek 'Chuck' Walker of the Lincolnshire Constabulary sexually harassed a female colleague, the tribunal ordered the chief constable to pay her £193,000 damages - even though most of the Casanova copper's dirty work took place down the pub while both officers were off duty.

The Sex Discrimination Act, however, views work-related social functions as an extension of employment and, it would seem, does not only police what goes on in the workplace. Unlucky, Chucky.

E-mail: info@lewissilkin.com.

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