Equality and diversity courses are vital in workplaces all over the country these days. However, handling them correctly is key because as the Georges v Pobl Group Ltd case shows us, there’s a risk of racial harassment taking place in a context where the aim is to avoid such instances.
In the case of Georges v Pobl Group Ltd, G attended a course designed to teach attendees about issues relating to equality and diversity in the workplace. The tutor running the course wrote an offensive word to describe black people on a chart and proceeded to ask attendees to shout out the most offensive derogatory words they know.
G was the only black person in the room and was distressed by the experience. After this, G signed off sick; later an ET upheld a racial harassment claim from G. The shock caused by the experience had a profound impact.
No Rationale for the Use of Racially Offensive Words
When the racial harassment claim was upheld, it was made clear that although there was no intention to cause offence, the exposure to those words shouted out in that manner was enough to make G feel very uncomfortable and offended.
The degrading nature of racially offensive words and the connotations they carry mean that people should not have been exposed to them in that context. There was judged to be no rationale for the use of such loaded and racially offensive words, even if the aim was to educate about the impact of discrimination and bigotry.