An employee has been awarded £8,000 for harassment following an accidental call that was regarded as ‘degrading’. The accidental call was from his manager after the phone pocket dialed and then ensued the foul mouthed rant aimed at the employee.
Consequently, a tribunal found the employer guilty of harassment due to the pocket dial. The Leicester Employment Tribunal heard the case from Paul Tribe who was described as a “bull******r” and whose job would have been better suited and performed by an “able-bodied” employee when his manager Wayne Read called him.
The Judge in charge of the hearing, Judge Evans, ruled that the accidental call lead to a “violation of his dignity” and had the effect of creating “a degrading or humiliating environment for him”.
In May 2016, Tribe, who was an employee of BT since 1988 and suffers from muscular dystrophy, phoned his manager Read to let him know that the job that he was working on with his partner could not be completed, this was due to the fact that the site they were working on closed at 4pm. After the phone call from Tribe to his manager was when the accidental call occurred and the derogatory statements then followed.
Tribe, on receiving the phone call and hearing the initial comments decided to place his phone on speaker so that his partner could hear the offensive comments. Following the pocket dial, Read advised Tribe that if he were to receive an accidental call from him again, then he should hang up straight away.
In January 2017, Tribe had a conversation with his new manager, Clive Glenton, to explain that he had a disability and that in the past bosses had treated him badly because of this. Subsequently, this led to further offensive comments being made, such as ‘well you’re not a complete handbag then’. The tribunal found that the comments were indeed ‘ill-judged’ however did dismiss the evidence due to the issue not being reported at the time. This led to the claim of harassment in relation to this incident being dismissed.
Claims of victimisation and a breach of duty under the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments were dismissed. BT was ordered to pay Tribe £8,131.31 compensation for harassment.
Paul Holcroft, associate director at Croner stated that the case should be a reminder that comments relating to protected characteristics should not be made within the workplace. Olly Jones, employment partner at Simmons & Simmons added: “For all the efforts companies are making around diversity and inclusion, a judgment such as this underlines the work they still have to do to eradicate prejudice and unconscious bias from the workplace.”
If you have any queries with regards to the content of this article then please do not hesitate to contact a member of the HPC team:
T: 0844 800 5932