When Banter At Work
When Banter At Work Is No Longer Funny
It’s not unusual for staff to exchange a laugh and a joke together but banter can sometime reach a point when it becomes harassment. In the words of Bob Dylan: “The Times They Are A-changin” and in a changing culture, words and actions which were acceptable a few years ago, might not be today.
It is certainly true that words are important, not just to the person who is saying them, but in the case of an allegation of harassment or discrimination, for the person to whom they are addressed.
Today, there is redress when what is said to a colleague at work is perceived as crossing a boundary. There are rules which affect what can be said and getting it wrong can be expensive if the person concerned takes offence, feeling perhaps, that they have to leave their employment even and take the issue to an Employment Tribunal.
Increasingly there are at Employment Tribunals, allegations of harassment and discrimination which arise from jokes or playful teasing, which on the surface seem to be just that and nothing more. It is how such words are perceived by the person to whom they are addressed, which is crucial, and whether or not, that perception is reasonable.
The issue was highlighted at a recent Employment Tribunal when the judge decided that the expression “bald” (followed by an expletive) was harassment related to sex.
Under the Equality Act 2010 a person harasses another if they engage in unwanted conduct relative to a particular characteristic. These include: sex, race, age, disability. Additionally, that conduct has the purpose or effect of violating the other person’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.
The Graham Agency, keeping you informed.