Copyright Moore Barlow LLP (Moore Blatch and Barlow Robbins merged May 2020)

Offensive language during training

Theresa Georges v Pobl Group Ltd.

Ms Georges worked as a cleaner at Pobl Group when, at a diversity training course, the trainer wrote the N-word and P-word on flipchart and asked attendees to shout the most offensive terms they know.

Ms Georges, the only black person in the room, claimed that shouting the ‘N word’ three times was racial harassment. She also said she felt pressured to say the ‘N word’, though said another word instead.

The incident left Ms Georges so distressed that she requested annual leave before the end of the training, which was refused. The following day she did not return to work. Ms Georges subsequently raised a grievance with her employer about the training, but it was not upheld. She later brought the case to the employment tribunal, arguing that the use of the ‘N word’ in the training environment amounted to racial harassment – the tribunal agreed with Ms Georges.

Legal opinion

Employers must consider carefully how training courses are conducted. The above training session was obviously ill-thought through, but even well-intended sessions can be found to be discriminatory.
This case is also a reminder to employers that they can be held liable for their staff’s behaviour if it is deemed discriminatory.

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