Workplace lawsuits for ‘joking’ hit record high Business

Workplace lawsuits that include the word ‘joke’ have risen 45% in a year as former co-workers clash over what they deem to be acceptable office humor.

According to a study by law firm GQ Littler, the number of complaints filed with the labor courts for “joking” as justification for alleged discrimination rose from 67 in 2020 to a record 97 in 2021.

Employers have failed to substantiate their jokes in a number of recent legal battles, including a case involving a 69-year-old Isle of Wight plumber who was awarded £25,000 after bosses dubbed him “Dave half dead” due to his age.

However, the lawyers pointed out that using “joking” as a defense can sometimes work.

A salesman who was called a “big ginger pike” because of his weight and his travel history lost his lawsuit in 2018, in part because he made similar jokes to others.

GQ Littler has warned that employers could be held liable for discriminatory comments made by staff “in the course of employment”, even if it falls outside working hours.

He said jokes can serve as a defense if the employee made similar jokes, wasn’t offended, or the comment wasn’t related to a protected characteristic.

Some staff who have been fired for bullying are also taking their former employers to court as they challenge what is seen as toxic behavior in the workplace.

A top trader who was sacked in 2019 for ’emotional terrorism’ who left a colleague with a ‘waterboarding feeling’ now wants £3m for unfair dismissal.

Omar Alami, who earned around £1million a year running a trading desk at BNP Paribas, told a Paris employment tribunal last month that one of his interactions was simply ‘lively’ and that he was “never insulting or aggressive”.

The Paris-based financier found a new job less than a year after his redundancy, but said he was now earning 60% less than before. The financial sector in particular is faced with an increasing number of questions about behavior at work.

In one case in London, a UBS trader claimed the Swiss bank had a ‘toxic’ work environment where people were yelling at staff across the trading floor. The bank’s lawyers suggested that this kind of tense atmosphere “is the inescapable reality of the job of a City merchant.”

Earlier this year, sources told The Telegraph that Lloyd’s of London, the world’s oldest insurance market, was preparing to fine or ban a member for behavior involving a “systematic campaign of intimidation against a junior employee for several years”.

The employee worked for Atrium Underwriters, which was hit with a record £1million fine earlier this year after condoning bullying and an annual ‘boys night out’ involving initiation games, strong alcohol consumption and harassment of female staff. in the years leading up to 2018.

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This notice was published: 2022-05-05 05:00:00

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