In the case of Morgan v Halls of Gloucester, a black delivery driver for a fruit and vegetable business brought a case against his employer for constructive dismissal and racial harassment after listening to his colleague being subjected to racist abuse.
Although the delivery driver, Mr Morgan, was not the subject of the racist abuse, he felt he could not continue to work in such a racist environment and so resigned and claimed constructive dismissal.
Mr Morgan’s colleague, Brian Ennis, was subjected to a series of racial jibes and other serious racist nicknames. The tribunal found that Mr Morgan’s own dignity had been violated even though Mr Ennis had not complained about the treatment.
Amanda Miles, the owner of the fruit and vegetable business sought to justify the language used by stating that it helped to distinguish Brian Ennis, who was black, from the other Brian, who was white. Miles claimed that Ennis did not have any issues and would have let her know if he did.
The tribunal did not accept this explanation, stating that Morgan had ‘tolerated a culture of racism’. The £27,000 awarded combined loss of earnings of £14,286 and £13,427 compensation for racial harassment.
The key point to take away from this case is that an employee can bring a successful claim for harassment even if the harassment was aimed at one of their colleagues. In order to satisfy the legal definition of harassment under the Equality Act 2010 the harasser must engage in unwanted conduct related to a protected characteristic that has the purpose or effect of violating the victim’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the victim. It is not a requirement that the harassment is directed at the victim.