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| 1 minute read

Woman succeeds in sexual harassment case after being called a "good girl" by line manager

A friendly workplace culture and good-humour between colleagues is often valued by employees. However, there is a well-reported, fine line between what may be considered harmless “banter” and what may amount to unlawful discrimination or harassment under the Equality Act 2010. In this case, the Claimant succeeded in her claims for sexual harassment and constructive unfair dismissal after reports that, amongst other things, her line manager frequently referred to her as a “good girl”. 

Discrimination and harassment cases are assessed subjectively and it is not a defence for an employer to say, for example, an employee is particularly sensitive. In practice, this can be difficult for employers to manage and, as highlighted in this case, certain words which may once have been considered harmless may evolve to be unacceptable.

Defending cases for unlawful discrimination and harassment are expensive (with unlimited awards for damages), time consuming and may attract negative publicity and so it is important for employers to consider ways to mitigate the risk of such claims.  

This case is a very useful reminder that employers must have appropriate and meaningful policies and training in place for staff on equality and diversity. Where concerns are raised, employers must ensure they are pro-active in their response and always consider whether a “re-fresh” on training is required. 

As we start to move into a post-Covid working world, it is a good time for employers to have a review of their current policies and practices and consider whether these would benefit from being renewed.

A recent Employment Tribunal has found in favour of a female employee who claimed she had been sexually discriminated against by her boss who frequently referred to her as “good girl” and harassed her to change her profile images on social media to ones in which she looked more attractive [to her boss]. The tribunal dismissed the defence that the behaviour was merely banter; a point that we should all take note of.