Employer’s Case Study – Race Discrimination

Q: A manager passed over for promotion claims that the basis for this action is institutional racism. What actions should the employer take to deal with this?

Important points:
  • It is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee on the grounds of his (or her) race, colour, nationality or ethnic or national origins.
  • If the employee brings a successful discrimination claim in the Employment Tribunal, the employer could be liable to pay compensation to the employee. In discrimination cases, there is no cap on the amount of damages that can be awarded.
  • If the employer is aware of a potential claim then they should do everything possible to investigate it fully and reach a resolution.
  • It may be that a particular manager within the company is carrying out the discriminatory treatment and the employer may not even have been aware of it.
  • This is not, however, a valid defence and the employer will usually be vicariously liable for the acts of its employees.
  • The employer will have a strong defence if they are able to show that they did everything possible to prevent discriminatory practices and behaviour.
  • This includes operating a clear equal opportunities policy, carrying out regular reviews and training and keeping performance records so that it is possible to show an objective justification for all promotions, as well as monitoring managers to see how they are conducting their assessments.
  • Of course, as soon as the employee makes the complaint of racism, the grievance procedure should be followed. See Grievance Procedure.
  • If the grievance process shows that the employee’s lack of promotion was due to racism, he should be given the opportunity to have the promotion reconsidered by a different manager and the original manager should be disciplined. See Disciplinary Procedure.

All allegations of discrimination should be taken very seriously by employers and thoroughly investigated. It is advisable to attempt to resolve the issue at an early stage rather than to try and defend a strong claim in the Employment Tribunal, where the penalties could be high.