Sex discrimination

When thinking of sex discrimination, some examples are quite obvious, such as sexual harassment at work (although there are still many workplaces where, typically but not exclusively, men think it’s ok to circulate porn to all their colleagues, even though some women may take offence at this), whereas other types of discrimination, such as sexual orientation discrimination, can involve less obvious manifestations such as bullying or intimidating of colleagues who, even though they are not gay, have family or friends who are gay, leading to inappropriate conduct or comments.

When we say obvious above, we also mean possibly in evidential terms – taking again the example of sexual harassment, the complainant may well have text or other messages or there may be witnesses to comments or inappropriate behaviour which mean that proving discrimination occurred is not that difficult. the next issue with this type of activity is, does it matter whether the employer knew about the conduct complained of ? Generally, the answer is no – this is due to the legal concept of vicarious liability, whereby an employer can be liable for actions of employees whether the employee knew of those activities and/or countenanced them or not.

Where sex discrimination claims become far more complex is the area of equal pay. Statistics show there is often still a degree of disparity between the pay of men and women, either doing the same job or a similar job. the difficulty with this type of claim is in proving the disparity and this is where the use of a discrimination questionnaire can be very useful. It is often necessary to prove such claims using data obtained by the questionnaire procedure.

So, what about damages ? Well, under English law, whether for personal injury claims, contract claims or employment law, damages to compensate an injured party for either physical pain or injury to feelings are generally pretty low. Applying this to employment law, notwithstanding that any type of discrimination can be upsetting, in the absence of detailed medical evidence claiming a severe long term impact constituting a medical illness, damages for most types of discrimination will be below £10,000.00 and often considerably less.

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