Funeral home dismissal justified

A senior care home manager was dismissed after being accused of making a series of inappropriate remarks to young, female colleagues, including “sweet”, “love”, “chick” and “honey”. On another occasion, an employment tribunal heard, he was seen massaging the shoulders of a female colleague, who said later it was “unsolicited and unwanted”.

However, the manager argued that he had been the victim of sexual discrimination and not the women, because despite admitting to calling female colleagues by ‘pet names’, he also gave male co-workers nicknames such as “mate” or “pal”.

However, the tribunal found it was inappropriate to compare the two, as the way he addressed men did not undermine them in the way his names for women did. “Calling someone mate or lad is not a ‘pet’ name in our opinion it is a nickname,” the panel ruled. “They are not demeaning… however chick, babes, bobs, honey, hun and sweetie are all demeaning and infantilising ways of referring to women”.

The employment judge went on to report that the manager believed his fate “was predetermined and that the outcome was influenced by the “Me Too” movement, which meant that the individuals conducting the hearings automatically believed the women rather than himself.”

Discrimination can be difficult to define and employees and employers alike are often not aware of the many forms it can take and it is important to enable managers and employees to understand how to identify and respond to language which may be discriminatory.

Words like “love” and “honey” should not be used in a professional context as they are seen as patronising and inappropriate. Similarly, terms like ‘mate’ and ‘lad’ may be perceived as patronising by male workers. What matters is how someone perceives the word, even if there was no intention to cause upset or distress. The workplace is a professional setting, and language should be neutral and inclusive to ensure that all employees, regardless of gender, race, culture feel comfortable. This should be addressed by clear policy and communications, training on induction or regularly as part of the code of conduct and working practices.

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