When booking speakers or entertainment, hospitality businesses must be aware that individuals who make sexist or discriminatory comments are at risk of criminal or civil claims against them personally under the Protection from Harassment Act.
As our employment partner Helen Goss writes in this month’s Caterer magazine, the employer may also be vicariously liable for the harassment by employees in the course of their employment.
Helen writes that to avoid this situation, it is important for the hotel to carefully choose which speaker to book and to clearly set boundaries with them as to what is acceptable and what is not. While an employer might not be liable for harassment based on a third party’s comments alone, there is uncertainty here from recent cases.
“A defence for an employer when their employees harass colleagues is that the employer has taken all reasonable steps to avoid the harassment happening. An employer should have clear policies on equal opportunities and anti-bullying, but it is vital to ensure that these are brought to the employees’ attention and that you explain these policies as part of an induction. An employer should also regularly train employees on these issues”, notes Helen.
Employees might ask not to attend this event, citing the speaker’s reputation. Normally, refusal to perform an obligation of the job could result in disciplinary action against the employees. However, in this case, the employer should listen to concerns. An employee might argue that the requirement that they attend an event with a sexist or racist speaker breaches their contract of employment and enables them to resign and claim constructive dismissal and discrimination.
To read the full article click here.
Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.