Woman claims she was victim of sex discrimination and harassment… The employment appeal tribunal has decided that offensive comments made by an employer about an employee’s pregnancy were not inherently discriminatory.
The tribunal rejected the claims of the female employee that she had been denied a pay increase because she had been pregnant. The tribunal also decided that the derogatory comments made about the women’s pregnancy should be viewed fully in the context they were made before a judgement can be formed of the level of harassment or discrimination involved.
The details of this particular case revolved around a pay dispute between the woman and her employer about what commitments had been made in regard to her pay. The tribunal heard that the complainant and the employer both alleged that the other party was lying. The female employee said that her pregnancy has caused her employer to renege on promises with regard to her pay while the employer in this case stated that the employee had not been truthful when she suffered a miscarriage in the past.
The employer questioned the integrity of the woman’s statements because of apparent discrepancies on her Facebook timeline on which she had posted information about her previous miscarriage and her subsequent pregnancy. The complainant denied that she had not been truthful with her employer and accused her employers of failing to implement measures that fostered a sense of equality and diversity in the workplace. Instead she said that she had been the victim of sex discrimination and harassment.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal had to consider if the employment tribunal that had previously dismissed the woman’s claims had been correct in their analysis that the employer’s comments had to be placed in an appropriate context and weren’t necessarily inherently discriminatory simply because they were made by a man. The EAT supported this analysis and said the woman had no case.
Industry experts say this judgement is useful to employers because it suggests tribunals are obligated to take the context in which comments are made before deciding if they indicate some kind of discriminatory practice or harassment. The case also illustrates the power of social media and the need for companies to have some kind of social media policy in place so that employees are made aware of what they should and shouldn’t be posting on social networks.