Be aware of unintentional discrimination!

A Sky employee has won £14,000 in an employment tribunal after being told by her diversity officer colleague that she must have experienced discrimination because she is of Latino heritage.

A manager who was an inclusion advocate at Sky, made the comment to an employee, who was adopted and raised by white parents, during discussions over a presentation about racism, prompted by the murder of George Floyd in May 2020.  Distressed by the comment, the employee took several days off work in the aftermath.

The tribunal said that although Cook had not meant to cause offence, the remark was “blunt” and an assumption which amounted to stereotyping.

The employee was awarded £12,000 injury to feelings with just over £2,000 interest, which took into account not just the offending comment but also the employer’s failure to deal with the matter properly when the claimant raised her concern.  The employee’s employment had been terminated by Sky in 2020 for gross misconduct after she failed to self-isolate upon returning from holiday.

She lost claims of unfair dismissal relating to her sacking in addition to a claim of sex discrimination, but won her claim of race discrimination following the managers comments.

This is a good example of careless and unintended race discrimination. The claimant described herself as of Latino race but she was adopted by white British parents. She had not in her own view experienced any racially based comments oppression. The manager’s comment that she must have been oppressed because of her skin colour, although not intended as demeaning or hurtful (which was accepted by the claimant), was unfortunately both.

This case highlights that motive isn’t a factor when it comes to discrimination cases.  Employers need to be aware of stereotyping, casual or otherwise, on any ground when training employees on inclusion and diversity.  It is also a reminder that motive is irrelevant. The colleague may have had the best of intentions, but her comment nonetheless was hurtful to the claimant and the employer paid the price. This case highlights the dangers of stereotyping without any background knowledge or information.

When did you last providing training on diversity awareness in your business, contact 121 HR Solutions today on 0800 9995 121 to discuss how we can deliver internal training to suit your business needs.

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