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Harassment – crossing the line

In Richmond Pharmacology v Dhaliwall [2009], an Employment Tribunal found that a manager said to the Claimant who was leaving:

“We will probably bump into each other in future, unless you are married off in India.”

The above comment fell “on the wrong side of the line”, as it evoked a racial stereotype of forced marriages and amounted to harassment.

Compensation was restricted to £1,000, reflecting the fact that the manager had not intended to offend. Tribunals are entitled to look at the effect of the action on the Claimant, not just the purpose (see below). The Tribunal must also consider whether the Claimant’s perception of events is reasonable. A trivial incident will not amount to harassment, whatever its effect on the Claimant.

Note: Section 3A of the Race Relations Act 1976 states that:-

  1. a person subjects another to harassment in any circumstances relevant for the purposes of any provision referred to in Section 1(1B) where, on the grounds of race or ethnic or national origins, he engages in unwanted conduct, which has the purpose or effect of: (a) violating that other person’s dignity, or (b) creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for him
  2. conduct shall be regarded as having the effects specified in paragraph (a) or (b) of sub-section
  3. only if, having regard to all the circumstances, including in particular the perception of that other person, it should reasonably be considered as having that effect.”

If you need advice on an employment tribunal claim, please contact us – we would be pleased to discuss it with you.


Employment Department

Raj Dhokia: r.dhokia@fgdlaw.co.uk
Martin Fine: m.fine@fgdlaw.co.uk