Topic: Discrimination and harassment

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Ethical Veganism is a Protected Characteristic

An employment tribunal in the UK has held that ethical veganism is a protected characteristic under UK discrimination law.

In the UK an employee is protected from discrimination in the workplace under one of the nine protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act 2010.  This includes protection in respect of religion, religious belief and philosophical belief.

The case involves an employee at the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS). He raised concerns that the organisations pension fund invested in some companies that tested products on animals or otherwise infringed the central tenets of his ethical veganism.  The disclosure was made … Continue Reading

Gender pay gap: a new measuring tool

Since 1972, there have been numerous laws on professional equality between men and women but the gender pay gap remains a crucial issue which has not been resolved yet.

The parliament voted a new law on 5th September 2018 creating an index to be used to measure the gender pay gap in companies.

Since 1st January 2019, there has been an obligation to assess the gender pay gap in each company with at least 50 employees through the use of the index. The methodology adopted is to allocate a certain number of points based on the following criteria:

  • Comparison of
Continue Reading

France: Le harcèlement sexuel susceptible d’être exclu en cas d’attitude ambigüe de la victime

Le harcèlement sexuel est défini, dans le Code du travail, par « des propos ou comportements à connotation sexuelle répétés qui soit portent atteinte à [la] dignité [du salarié] en raison de leur caractère dégradant ou humiliant, soit créent à son encontre une situation intimidante, hostile ou offensante ».

Le Code du travail prévoit également une assimilation aux faits constitutifs de harcèlement pour « toute forme de pression grave, même non répétée, exercée dans le but réel ou apparent d’obtenir un acte de nature sexuelle, que celui-ci soit recherché au profit de l’auteur des faits ou au profit d’un Continue Reading

France: Provocative acts do not necessarily fall within the scope of sexual harassment if the victim’s behaviour is ambiguous

The French employment Code defines sexual harassment as “repeated sexual comments or conduct that either violate the [employee’s] dignity because of their degrading or humiliating nature or create an intimidating, hostile or offensive situation against the employee“.

The French employment Code also assimilates to sexual harassment “any form of serious pressure, even non-repeated, exercised for the real or apparent purpose of obtaining an act of a sexual nature, whether it is sought for the benefit of the perpetrator or for the benefit of a third party“.

However, on 25 September 2019, the French Supreme Court (Cour … Continue Reading

Right to work in the UK and requests for evidence

A recent UK case considered whether an employer acted reasonably in requiring an employee, who was not a national of the European Economic Area (EEA), married to an EEA national, to produce documentation to show his right to work in the UK.

In the UK:

1) it is illegal to for an employer in the UK to employ somebody who does not have a right to work in the UK;

2) an employer can avoid liability for a civil penalty for breach of the above obligation if it carries out the requisite right to work checks before an employee’s employment … Continue Reading

Employee dismissed following long term absence due to mental illness: Federal Court finds it lawful

In an important decision last month, the Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia upheld the appeal of an employer who claimed, in dismissing a client executive who had been absent from work for 7 months due to mental health issues, it had acted lawfully and not dismissed him because of his illness.[1]

The judge at first instance had found the employer liable for breaching the ‘adverse action’ provisions of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act) because the employee’s mental illness could not be disaggregated from the employer’s reasons for dismissal.[2] This decision … Continue Reading

Facilitating HR Management: Electronic medical certificates

As part of the “Third Bureaucracy Relief Act” the German government intends to introduce an electronic submission procedure for medical certificates regarding the incapacity of employees. More than 80 million of such certificates are issued every year by doctors in Germany. Replacing extensive documentation and record-keeping duties will allow medium-sized companies in particular to reduce existing manual processing workloads.

According to current German law an employee must submit a medical certificate of incapacity to the employer at the latest by the fourth day of absence due to illness. In the future, employers will be able to retrieve electronic certificates directly … Continue Reading

Good Work Plan: Government issues further response and consultation to support families and pregnant women

As part of its Good Work Plan, the UK Government has recently published a response and a consultation paper on proposals which will protect and support families and pregnant women. The first Government paper considers extending redundancy protection for women and new parents.  The second consultation looks at various proposals to support families, including a review of the various parental leaves and pay entitlements, neo-natal leave and pay and providing transparency of employer’s work-life balance policies.

Good Work Plan: Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination Consultation

As part of the Good Work Plan, the Government has considered changes to assist pregnant women … Continue Reading

Crouch, bind, set: Folau to tackle Rugby Australia in the Federal Court

The termination of Israel Folau’s $4m playing contract has set the scrum for a Federal Court case which is likely to shape the landscape of religious expression and vilification in the employment context.

Background

Folau’s controversial “warning” on Instagram stated that “Hell awaits” those who are “homosexuals … thieves and atheists”, among others, telling them they should ”Repent!” because “only Jesus saves”.

Along with NSW Rugby, Rugby Australia’s (together, Rugby Bodies) initial decision to sack Folau because of a high level breach of the Professional Players Code of Conduct was upheld by a Code of Conduct hearing.  The parties … Continue Reading

Court holds that it’s not discriminatory to enhance pay during maternity leave, but to pay only statutory shared parental pay during shared parental leave.

In the UK, only female employees are eligible for statutory maternity leave. They are also eligible for statutory maternity pay at a fixed rate during such leave subject to certain conditions – and it is common for employers to pay enhanced maternity pay during periods of maternity leave.

Whilst many employers do not pay enhanced paternity pay to those on paternity leave, it has long been accepted that paying enhanced maternity pay is defensible under the provisions of the Equality Act which state that, when determining whether a man has been discriminated against on grounds of his gender, no account … Continue Reading

Ethnicity pay gap reporting in the UK

As reported in an earlier post, the UK Government introduced mandatory gender pay gap reporting in 2017.

An independent review conducted in 2017, Race in the workplace, made a number of recommendations for removing the barriers to workplace progression faced by ethnic minorities including the introduction of mandatory reporting of ethnicity pay data. At that time the UK Government expressed a preference for a voluntary approach to ethnicity pay reporting.

However, following a later report revealing that very few employers collect ethnicity pay data, the Government has decided that mandatory ethnicity pay reporting is necessary to enable employers to … Continue Reading

French employment law : Key developments expected for 2019

The French authorities have been very prolific in the area of effecting reforms to employment law, and 2019 will not be an exception to this general rule (although perhaps less so than was the case in 2017 and 2018).

First, in 2019, a certain number of reforms promulgated in 2017 and 2018 will either come into force become fully effective:

  • As of January 2019, all companies have become subject to the requirement to withhold income tax from salaries paid to their employees. This change had been under discussion for a fairly long time and was initially planned to enter into
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Religious discrimination claim – whose religion?

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has held that where an employer (or individuals on behalf of the employer) acts because of their own religion or belief, this may not lead to an employee bringing a successful claim for direct discrimination on grounds of religion or belief. The EAT upheld the employer’s appeal, overturning the Employment Tribunal decision.

The case involved a teacher at a nursery run in accordance with ultra-orthodox Jewish principles, who was dismissed after complaints made by parents who were aware that she was cohabiting with her partner. At a meeting, the headteacher and the nursery’s managing director … Continue Reading

Claim by track cyclist Jess Varnish to be heard in the employment tribunal next week

Track cyclist Jess Varnish brought a claim of sex discrimination against British Cycling and UK Sport last year, following her removal from the Great Britain Olympic team just months before the 2016 Rio Games.

In the UK, protection from discrimination in the workplace is governed by the Equality Act 2010 (the Act). However, in order to be able to bring a claim, an individual must fall within the categories of protected persons under the Act.

Who is protected?

The first category of those protected under the Act are those in “employment” which has a wider meaning for the purposes of … Continue Reading

Employees on Long term sickness – when can an employer dismiss?

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has recently confirmed that employers should take care when dismissing an employee who is entitled to participate in a permanent health insurance (PHI) scheme and is absent from work by reason of long term ill health. It held that there is an implied term that an employer will not dismiss an employee for incapacity if that would prevent the employee being entitled to long term disability benefits.

Where an employee is absent due to ill health then on termination of employment, the employer may face a claim for unfair dismissal and for disability discrimination.   Capability … Continue Reading

Have your say on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

The recent Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) national survey on sexual harassment has made it clear that sexual harassment in the Australian workplace is increasing.   In June 2018, the AHRC announced a National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in the Workplace in order to report, on other things, the prevalence and reporting of harassment and the measures being taken in preventing and responding to allegations of harassment.

The AHRC has invited submissions from interested parties to assist the inquiry.  We are preparing a submission based on our experience of assisting employers in preventing and managing sexual harassment in the workplace.  We … Continue Reading

Direct Discrimination – how far can this go?

The recent case of Lee v Ashers Baking Company Limited and Others has hit the headlines in looking at what amounts to direct discrimination in terms of the provision of services to individuals.  What effect does this case have on discrimination in the employment field?

The case involved a family owned bakery, whose owners strict religious beliefs include opposition to gay marriage. They were asked to provide a customised cake with a photograph and wording stating “Support Gay Marriage”.  They cancelled the order due to their religious belief and provided a refund to the customer.

The individual brought a discrimination … Continue Reading

Dismissal for misconduct cannot be based (solely) on anonymous reports

Anonymous reports have been mistrusted for a number of years in France, for historical reasons. While anonymity enables individuals to raise their voice more openly, without being the targets of retaliation measures, it can also drift into slander.

This explains a specificity of French law under which whistleblowers using ethicals lines are strongly encouraged to disclose their identity since generally speaking, , anonymous reports are not acceptable (although a limited number of exceptions are available).

It is only very recently that the French Supreme Court had to resolve a case involving an employee dismissed on the basis of anonymous reports.… Continue Reading

AHRC launches national inquiry into sexual harassment in Australia

The Australian Human Rights Commission (Commission) has recently launched an inquiry into sexual harassment in Australian workplaces (Inquiry). It seems that the ‘watershed’ moment that the #MeToo campaign was hailed as, has indeed driven the momentum to keep the issue alive and for meaningful action to come from it.

There can be little argument that a culture that tolerates, condones or rewards inappropriate conduct or the wrong behaviours creates real and significant risk for an organisation – from a legal, commercial and reputational perspective.   It is essential, both at Board and executive level, that there is an awareness and understanding … Continue Reading

“High heels and workplace dress codes” – the UK Government Equalities Office publishes guidance

In December 2015, an agency worker arrived to work as a receptionist and was sent home without pay for failure to wear high heels in accordance with the agency’s dress code. The story attracted widespread media attention, and led to an enquiry by a House of Commons Committee whose report was published in January 2017. As a result, the Government promised to update its guidance on dress codes during 2017, but the Government Equalities Office (GEO) has only just published the long-awaited guidance.

“High heels and workplace dress codes”

The enquiry resulted in publication of the report “High heels Continue Reading

UK Supreme Court holds that plumber engaged by Pimlico Plumbers was a “worker” and not a self-employed contractor

The Supreme Court has dismissed the latest appeal by Pimlico Plumbers Ltd (the Company) against the employment tribunal’s decision that one of its plumbers, Mr Smith, was a “worker” under the provisions of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA) and the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR).   The Supreme Court held that, on the facts of the case, Mr Smith satisfied the key elements of worker status in that he undertook to carry out work personally for the Company and that the Company was not in the position of a client or customer of a business carried on by him.

BackgroundContinue Reading

EAT holds that paying enhanced maternity pay, but only statutory shared parental pay, is capable of amounting to indirect sex discrimination

In the UK, only female employees are eligible for statutory maternity leave. They are also eligible for statutory maternity pay at a fixed rate during such leave subject to certain conditions – and it is common for employers to pay enhanced maternity pay during periods of maternity leave.

Whilst many employers do not pay enhanced paternity pay to those on paternity leave, it has long been accepted that paying enhanced maternity pay is defensible under the provisions of the Equality Act which state that, when determining whether a man has been discriminated against on grounds of his gender, no account … Continue Reading

Coming Soon: Heightened Accountability and Transparency in Federal Employment Equity

In Canada, most federally regulated employers in the private and public spheres are subject to the Employment Equity Act, or in French, la Loi sur l’équité en matière d’emploi (the “Act”). First enacted in 1986, the Act’s objective is to ensure that federally regulated employers proactively engage in equitable practices that reduce barriers and counter disadvantages in employment with respect to the Act’s four designated groups: women, Aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities. Under this regime, employers are subject to reporting requirements regarding the fair and proportional representation of the four … Continue Reading

New York State’s new sexual harassment prevention laws will require action by all New York employers

On April 12, 2018, New York State  Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law new measures aimed at preventing sexual harassment. We summarized these provisions in detail in our legal update, New York employers should get ready to comply with New York State’s new sexual harassment prevention laws, published on April 11th, in anticipation of the bill being signed into law.  The new law requires New York State employers to adopt sexual harassment prevention policies and conduct annual training on such policies, restricts the use of non-disclosure and arbitration provisions related to claims of sexual harassment, and extends workplace protections … Continue Reading

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