In the recent case of Ali v Heathrow Express and Redline Assured Security Ltd, the Employment Appeal Tribunal provided guidance on the extent an individuals perception of harrassment plays when considering is conduct amounts to harrassment.
Mr Ali, who is Muslim, was a security officer at Heathrow Airport. Objects were sometimes placed in luggage to test the security officer's response to them. Mr Ali's employer carried out a test using a bag containing some electrical cables and a note with "Allahu Akbar" written on it in arabic.
Mr Ali was not present at the time but later became aware of the test. He complained that his employer's conduct amounted to harrassment.
Section 26 of the Equality Act 2010 defines harrassment as follows:
“(1) A person (A) harasses another (B) if— (a) A engages in unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, and (b) the conduct has the purpose or effect of— (i) violating B's dignity, or (ii) creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for B. … (4) In deciding whether conduct has the effect referred to in subsection (1)(b), each of the following must be taken into account— (a) the perception of B; (b) the other circumstances of the case; (c) whether it is reasonable for the conduct to have that effect.”
The Employment Appeal Tribunal confirmed that the claimant's perception is just one of the matters the tribunal has to take into account when considering if conduct amounts to harrassment and Mr Ali's appeal was therefore dismissed.
Equality law is rarely straight forward and so it is important that you seek expert advice when faced with any difficulties in the workplace. Do not hesitate to contact Greystone Legal for a no obligation discussion.