Landmark case highlights need to combat all forms of discrimination.
Published 12 October 2020
The huge cost of failing to tackle discrimination in the workplace has once again been highlighted in a landmark tribunal ruling.
A gender-fluid worker was awarded £180,000 after being subjected to harassment and direct discrimination because of gender reassignment and sexual orientation (1).
Ms Rose Taylor made a successful claim against Jaguar Land Rover, after suffering abuse at work and a lack of support.
Ms Taylor had worked at the company for almost two decades as an engineer and had previously presented as male, before identifying as gender fluid in 2017.
Ms Taylor then usually dressed in women’s clothing and was subsequently subjected to insults from colleagues and abusive jokes at work.
The victory is believed to be the first successful claim of its kind and was hailed as a ‘milestone’ in recognising the rights of non-binary and gender fluid people.
Prior to the ruling there was some uncertainty over whether The Equality Act 2010 protected those who fell into the gender fluid/non-binary category.
The Act highlights nine protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation (2).
Discrimination that occurs because of one or more of the characteristics is unlawful under the Act.
Every one of us has at least some of the characteristics such as age, race or gender, so the Act protects us all from discrimination.
Discrimination means treating a person unfairly because of who they are or because they possess certain characteristics.
It is reported that cases of workplace discrimination are continuing to grow in numbers every year.
In research that was commissioned by Sky to mark National Inclusion Week, more than a quarter of British workers said they had experienced discrimination in the workplace (3)
The study revealed that employees were primarily being targeted based on their age, gender and race.
Employers have a duty to ensure that all employees are protected from being treated unfairly.
All organisations should take a zero-tolerance approach to any type of discrimination.
Identifying discrimination and dealing with it can be difficult and challenging, so employers need to be prepared to deal with it.
Practical measures that can be taken to combat discrimination in the workplace can include:
- Having a good understanding of your responsibilities as an employer in this area will inform your treatment of all employees.
- Ensure employees are aware of their rights and responsibilities on this topic and consider running equality training and awareness sessions.
- Provide clear details as to how an employee can raise any concerns about discrimination.
- Have clear and detailed procedures in place to deal with problems effectively and efficiently.
- Keep up to date with legislation and update company policies to prevent any chance of discrimination.
Having clear policies and procedures in place to deal with discrimination is essential.
Such policies are important because they can clearly define the steps that will be taken to tackle the issue, and ensure that employees are treated consistently.
It is essential to make sure that all policies are communicated to employees, so that they are fully aware of what is expected of them.
ACAS provide a comprehensive guide on bullying, discrimination and harassment (4)
In 2017 ACAS also published a guide, which was titled Gender Reassignment Discrimination: Key Points for the Workplace, which can be used by those undergoing gender reassignment, those who are not, and those who have a fluid gender identity (5)
The guide was produced in response to research that revealed that many employers were unaware of the scope of the law on gender reassignment discrimination – putting some employees at risk of unfair treatment at work.
1 Gender-fluid worker was awarded due to discrimination [Internet] https://www.bbc.co.uk [Cited 05-10-2020] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-coventry-warwickshire-54389785
2 Nine protected characteristics [Internet] https://www.legislation.gov.uk [Cited 05-10-2020] https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/section/4
3 Discrimination in the workplace [Internet] https://www.independent.co.uk [Cited 05-10-2020] https://www.independent.co.uk/extras/lifestyle/uk-workers-discrimination-office-workplace-sexism-racism-ageism-a8559501.html
4 Comprehensive guide on Bullying, Discrimination and Harassment [Internet] https://www.acas.org.uk [Cited 05-10-2020] https://www.acas.org.uk/discrimination-bullying-and-harassment
5 Gender Reassignment Discrimination Guide [Internet] https://archive.acas.org.uk [Cited 05-10-2020] https://archive.acas.org.uk/media/4912/Gender-reassignment-discrimination-key-points-for-the-workplace/pdf/Gender_reassignment_discrimination_Nov.pdf
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