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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 April 2006, 11:02 GMT 12:02 UK
Warning on discrimination policy
Office worker
Even unintentional behaviour may be discriminatory
Employers who allow staff to display "racy" calendars in the workplace could find themselves facing sex discrimination charges, it is claimed.

Lawyers said new equality laws had tightened the definition of sex discrimination, effectively outlawing practices which could cause offence.

The claims came as experts gathered in Dundee for an employment law seminar.

Employers have been urged to review their equal opportunities policies so as not to fall foul of the legislation.

Employment law specialist Celia Muller said that since the new regulations were introduced in October last year, anything which violates the dignity of an employee or creates an intimidating or offensive environment may be seen as discriminatory.

This could include the display of racy calendars in the workplace or male employees putting tools on high shelves, making them harder for women to reach.

A man who puts a particular style of calendar on the wall of his office may have no intention of harassing or causing offence to other employees, but that is irrelevant
Celia Muller
Employment law specialist

"An employer, or one of their employees for whom they have legal responsibility, will be guilty of harassment if they allow behaviours which might be regarded as discriminatory to persist," said Mrs Muller, of Thorntons solicitors.

She said there was a broad range of behaviour which might be seen as harassment, even if it was unintentional.

"At a simple level it might include unwanted physical contact, displaying pornography in the workplace or cracking jokes which might be regarded as offensive," she said.

"A man who puts a particular style of calendar on the wall of his office may have no intention of harassing or causing offence to other employees, but that is irrelevant.

"Similarly, poor taste jokes about gay people or the disabled may offend an employee whether or not they are gay or disabled."

Mrs Muller said employees were becoming more aware of their rights than ever before.


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