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Employer liable for harassment by a child in its care

BY Gerry O'Hare
Employment Law & HR
BG Purple

It is well known that the Equality Act provides that an employer will be liable in certain circumstances where a third party harasses one of its employees.

These provisions usually make one imagine a situation where an independent contractor, customer or delivery person harasses an employee on an ongoing basis, however a new dimension has been added to the liability of employers by a recent case.  

In the EAT case, a council was held to be liable for racial harassment committed against an Iranian social worker by a child in one of its children’s homes. The social worker suffered a campaign of harassment based on his accent and racial characteristics, leading him to take sick leave and bring a claim of harassment against the council, in whose care the child was living. The council was found to be liable because it knew that the harassment was happening but failed to do anything about it.  

In order to safeguard against a situation like this, there should be clear policies in place detailing reporting procedures for employees to use to bring harassment to the attention of their employer. The policies should also include details of how cases of harassment will be dealt with.

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