Recently caught “off-mic” comments by football presenters at Sky Sports regarding the female assistant referee in the Liverpool v Wolves match at the weekend, has brought into sharp reality one of the potential issues that employers may face under the new Equality Act legislation, which came into force in October last year.
The Equality Act makes it unlawful for an employer to fail to take steps to prevent their employees from being subjected to discrimination by third parties.
The case mentioned above is a useful example – it could be argued that the discriminatory comments picked up “off-mic” directed at the Assistant Referee could amount to harassment on grounds of her sex. That is unlawful under The Equality Act and if the FA failed to take any steps to prevent that then they could arguably be liable for a claim of discrimination.
The Equality Act provides a massive shift in the area of third-party discrimination. Previously it was very difficult for an employee to successfully sue their employer because of discrimination they were subjected to by a customer or a client. However, recent developments in case law and, more particularly, The Equality Act will make it much easier for employees to be able to do this.
All they will have to show is that they have complained about the treatment on two occasions and that their employer has not taken steps to prevent the discrimination in question. Claims for discrimination carry an unlimited award of compensation; and can be hugely damaging to any business or organisation in both cost and adverse publicity.