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Capita not liable to compensate for employee’s racist comments

Employers can be held legally responsible (vicariously liable) for the discriminatory actions of their employees which have taken place in the course of employment. To avoid being held liable, an employer would have to show that it took all reasonable steps to prevent the discriminatory actions from occurring. This is exactly what Capita managed to do in a recent racial harassment case, brought against both Capita and one of Capita’s operations managers.

The claimants in this claim complained about a racist comment made by their manager in the workplace.  Although the manager denied this, the Employment Tribunal (ET) found the claimants’ evidence ‘clear and convincing’.

To avoid being held liable, an employer would have to show that it took all reasonable steps to prevent the discriminatory actions from occurring.

The ET upheld complaints against the manager, but Capita were not held vicariously liable.  The ET concluded that Capita had done everything it reasonably should have to prevent the incident.  The ET commented: “Capita did not just have comprehensive policies in place. It communicated them, trained all employees on them and updated that training annually.”

This case is a reminder of an adage that employers are generally wise to follow: ‘prevention is better than cure’. In following the adage, organisations should seek to become model employers; putting in place effective policies and training, following fair practices and cultivating open and honest workplace cultures.  Many employers take action once matters have been reported to them, as they should, but this does not detract from the obligation to take reasonable steps to prevent such situations occurring in the first place.

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