• Robert Spicer

Racial harassment

Liability of local authority: delay by employment tribunal

Employment law advisers need to be aware of the decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal in the case of Sheffield City Council v Norouzi [2011] IRLR 897.

N, a man of Iranian origin, was employed by S as a residential social worker at a home for disturbed young people. He was subjected to abuse on racial grounds by one of the residents.

It was accepted that this conduct amounted to racial harassment for the purposes of s 3A of the Race Relations Act 1976. He complained of race discrimination to an employment tribunal.The tribunal found in favour of N and ruled that S was liable because it had not done enough to protect N. The tribunal did not give written reasons for its decision until six months later. N appealed to the EAT.

Decision 1. The tribunal’s delay in giving written reasons was not a ground of appeal.

2. In environments such as prisons, residential homes and some schools, harassment was a hazard of the job and could not easily be prevented.

3. If an employer were to be found liable for taking insufficient steps to protect an employee, then the tribunal had to focus on what action should have been taken.

4. The appellant could not raise, for the first time on appeal, the question of whether S had created a “hostile environment” by its inaction. This argument had not been taken before the tribunal.

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