The legal term of sex-related unlawful harassment is broad, as shown by two recent rulings from the employment tribunal. It doesn’t have to be sexual in nature, but it must be tied to the victim’s sex. To that extent, the often-used word “sexual harassment in the workplace” to refer to this sort of harassment might lead to misunderstandings.
What is workplace harassment?
Unwanted behavior that is connected to a relevant protected trait that violates someone’s dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment for that person is defined as “unwanted conduct.”
Sexual harassment in the workplace: Examples
The bald electrical worker
The claimant in one of these decisions was employed by a small manufacturing company as an electrician. His shift supervisor used the word “bald” as an intensifier for everyday profanity, insulting him and threatening him.
The tribunal found that, in the context of behavior that satisfied its requirements, the use of the epithet “bald” associated the insult with the claimant’s sex.
The teacher returning from maternity leave
The other choice concerned a teacher at an academy trust who, after returning from maternity leave, needed to express milk at lunchtime. Her employers refused to give her a space to do this despite numerous requests, leaving her with little choice except to express milk either in her car, which was parked on the school premises, or in the restrooms.
In this instance, the tribunal found that the employers’ unwelcome attitude towards the claimant’s sex, which resulted in the creation of a humiliating and demeaning atmosphere for her, was demonstrated by their failure to provide the claimant with a space in which to express milk. She ran the possibility of being observed by students if she expressed milk in her automobile. With her short lunch break, she was forced to eat her food there as well if she went to the bathroom. She was successful in her claim for sex-related harassment, but the tribunal rejected her alternate claim for indirect sex discrimination due to technical issues.