Clean Chinese food???!!!

Photo by Alice on Unsplash

Two white American restaurateurs opened Lucky Lee’s, an establishment in Manhattan, New Your City where they advertised that they were serving “clean Chinese food”.

The accusations of racism and stealing from another ethnic group’s culture soon came thick and fast.

The word “clean” was actually being used to try and attract diners who dietary issues, but Chinese Americans saw this term rather differently: it reinforced harmful stereotypes.

A link to the story in the New York Times can be found below:

A white business owner advertised “clean” Chinese food. Chinese-Americans had something to say about it.

https://apple.news/A1q-z7kJgScaN

Postscript

It would seem that accusations of cultural appropriation or theft in the culinary world aren’t confined to just the USA: our very own celebrity chef, Gordon Ramsay, has got himself into hot water concerning the launch of one of his restaurants in London.

Please see the link to the story on Sky News below:

Gordon Ramsay hits back at ‘prejudice and insults’ after cultural appropriation claims

http://news.sky.com/story/gordon-ramsay-hits-back-at-prejudice-and-insults-after-cultural-appropriation-claims-11694567

Copyright Seán J Crossan, 14 and 15 April 2019

Stereotyping = unlawful discrimination?

Photo by Ken Treloar on Unsplash

We can all be guilty of pre-judging other people – sometimes we do this consciously and, at other times, we can do this unconsciously. In other words, we can reduce people to stereotypes.

This becomes a problem if our pre-conceptions about other people cause us to behave in a way that translates into unlawful, less favourable treatment. If we treat others less favourably due to a protected characteristic that they possess (e.g. age, disability, gender, race, sexual orientation etc) in terms of the Equality Act 2010.

Stereotyping or negative perceptions about individuals may well give rise to the victim (with the relevant protected characteristic) having a claim for direct discrimination in terms of Section 13 of the Equality Act 2010).

This recalled a story, from several years ago, in which the BBC reported the experiences of a gay man who was subjected to all sorts of less favourable treatment based on negative stereotyping of LGBTI people. The victim of this offensive behaviour took successful legal action against the individual in question.

A link to this story on the BBC News site can be found below:

Why ‘gay’ gestures are discrimination

Clive Coleman reports on the case of a gay man who has won the first compensation award for discrimination based entirely on homophobic gestures.
More recent examples of negative sterotyping

When glancing through various media stories over the last few days, stereotyping or negative perceptions of people came to mind.

In the first story, sufferers of Parkinson’s Disease spoke about the negative reactions they often experience when going about their daily lives. People with this very serious condition have reported that their symptoms are mistaken by members of the public as drunken behaviour or that they are acting under the influence of drugs. Individuals who suffer from Parkinson’s have a disability in terms of Section 6 of the Equality Act 2010.

A link to this story can be found below:

https://edition.independent.co.uk/editions/uk.co.independent.issue.110419/data/8863856/index.html

In the second story, a person with cerebral palsy (also a disability) speaks about the discrimination that he has suffered.

A link to this story can be found below:

‘My disability is mistaken for drunkenness’

Stuart Devlin, who has cerebral palsy, carries a card to show door staff after being refused entry to pubs.

In the third story, which hails from Russia, the Russian authorities have allowed prisoners to resume yoga exercises during the period of their incarceration.

Previously, the Russian Government had banned this form of exercise for prisoners because it was believed it was linked to homosexuality! In the UK, a person’s sexual orientation is a protected characteristic in terms of Section 12 of the Equality Act 2010.

A link to this story can be found below:

https://edition.independent.co.uk/editions/uk.co.independent.issue.110419/data/8863506/index.html

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Copyright Seán J Crossan, 12 April 2019

Fatal Accident Inquiries (FAIs)

Photo by Jase Ess on Unsplash

There is no such thing as the office of coroner (or coroner’s court) in Scotland when it comes to the investigation of sudden deaths or fatal accidents.

In Scotland, we hold a Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) which is chaired by a Sheriff or a Sheriff Principal (the senior Sheriff in each of the six Scottish Sheriffdoms).

This week, the Fatal Accident Inquiry into the Clutha Bar disaster begins proceedings (although 8 preliminary hearings have already taken place).

The background to the Inquiry goes back to the events of the night of 29 November 2013 when a helicopter chartered by Police Scotland crash-landed on the roof of one of Glasgow’s most famous public houses, the Clutha Bar. Ten people died in the accident and others were injured.

Information about the tragedy can be accessed at a link on the BBC News website:

Clutha crash inquiry hears of helicopter’s final seconds

Ten people were killed when a police helicopter crashed into the roof of The Clutha bar in Glasgow on 29 November 2013.
The FAI

The Sheriff Principal of the Sheriffdom of Glasgow and Strathkelvin, Craig Turnbull QC is chairing the Inquiry.

In his opening remarks, Sheriff Principal Turnbull set out the remit of the FAI. He stated amongst other things that the FAI has two main objectives:

  • To consider the circumstances of the deaths; and
  • What steps, if many, might be taken to prevent deaths in similar circumstances in the future.

He then went on to explain the conduct of FAI proceedings:

  • They are inquisitorial, not adversarial; and
  • They are not about establishing civil or criminal liability

In total, the FAI will consider 31 separate matters and will hear from 14 different parties.

All of the parties who will appear at the FAI and the matters to be discussed can be found at the link below on the website of the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service:

https://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/the-courts/court-locations/clutha-fai

A video link to Sheriff Principal Turnbull’s opening remarks at the FAI can be found below:

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/video/clutha-helicopter-crash-inquiry-opens/vi-BBVJ7VJ

Postscript

On 30 October 2019, Sheriff Principal Craig Turnbull QC published his conclusions in respect of the Clutha Fatal Accident Inquiry.

He concluded that the pilot of the helicopter had ignored 5 low fuel warnings and made a conscious decision to continue flying the aircraft. The actions of the pilot in this respect were the cause of the disaster.

A link to Sheriff Principal Turnbull’s findings can be found below:

https://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/docs/default-source/cos-general-docs/pdf-docs-for-opinions/2019fai46.pdf?sfvrsn=0

Links to BBC articles about the findings of the FAI can also be found below:

A sheriff says the crash happened because Captain David Traill ignored five low fuel warnings during the flight.

An inquiry into the helicopter crash was “very disappointing”, say the families of two PCs killed in the tragedy.

Copyright Seán J Crossan, 11 April & 29 November 2019

Social Media Misuse

Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash

In a previous Blog (It happened outside work (or it’s my private life!) published on 7 February 2019), I discussed the importance of employers drawing up a clearly defined social media policy to which employees must adhere. It’s of critical importance that employers make employees aware of the existence of such policies and the potential consequences of breach. Generally speaking, employers will be rightly concerned that the misuse of social media platforms by employees may lead to reputational damage.

An interesting example of the type of reputational damage which can be caused to an employer’s brand by malicious or careless or thoughtless social media use was reported by The Independent in November 2018. A company in the Irish Republic was forced to take down a video on its Facebook site where an employee had used racially offensive images to promote Black Friday:

https://edition.independent.co.uk/editions/uk.co.independent.issue.251118/data/8650006/index.html

Misuse of social media can potentially be regarded by employers as misconduct. In really serious cases, the situation might be regarded as gross misconduct – a potentially fair reason for dismissal of the employee in terms of Section 98(4) of the Employment Rights Act 1996.

Right on cue, two stories have appeared about social media misuse on the BBC website this afternoon.

In the first story, Rugby Australia has announced that it intends to dismiss, Israel Folau for making homophobic comments on Twitter. Folau had been warned last year about previous offensive tweets that he had made. Clearly, he hasn’t learned his lesson and Rugby Australia is legitimately concerned about the reputational damage that such remarks may do to its image as an inclusive sports organisation.

A link to the story on the BBC News website can be found below:

Israel Folau: Rugby Australia ‘intends’ to sack full-back after social media post

Rugby Australia says it intends to terminate Israel Folau’s contract following a social media post by the full-back in which he said “hell awaits” gay people.
In the second story, Shila Iqbal, an actress who appears in the long running ITV soap opera, Emmerdale has been dismissed due to offensive tweets that she made some 6 years ago.
A link to the story can be found below:

Shila Iqbal: Emmerdale actress fired over old tweets

Shila Iqbal says she’s “terribly sorry” for using offensive language online six years ago.

Trawling through the case law archives

Since the previous Blog was published, I have been browsing through the archives and discovered a number of Employment Tribunal cases which involved alleged social media misuse.

Weeks v Everything Everywhere Ltd ET/250301/2012

In this case, the dismissed employee posted comments on Facebook which likened his work place to Hell (or Dante’s Inferno for the more cultured readership). The employer had given the employee a warning about this kind of behaviour, but he continued to post these types of comments on Facebook. The employer regarded this type of behaviour as causing it to suffer reputational damage.

Held: by the Employment Tribunal that the employer was entitled to dismiss the employee in terms of Section 98 of the Employment Rights Act 1998.

A link to the full ET judgement in the Weeks’ case can be found below:

https://uk.practicallaw.thomsonreuters.com/Link/Document/Blob/I42aaca4f0c5511e498db8b09b4f043e0.pdf?targetType=PLC-multimedia&originationContext=document&transitionType=DocumentImage&uniqueId=e621efe4-fda9-4b65-9f21-67c5e720fbf0&contextData=%28sc.Default%29&comp=pluk

Game Retail Ltd v Laws Appeal No. UKEAT/0188/14DA

The employee, who worked for Game, had set up a personal Twitter account. This account was followed by colleagues at approximately 65 other Game stores. The settings on the Twitter account were public, meaning that any person could read them. The employee’s tweets typically consisted of a wide range of disparaging and derogatory remarks. The employer dismissed the employee on grounds of gross misconduct.

Held: by the Employment Appeal Tribunal that the dismissal was fair in terms of Section 98 of the Employment Rights Act 1996. These remarks were being publicly broadcasted via Twitter (despite the employee’s assertion that they were private remarks) and these could cause the employer to suffer damage in terms of its reputation.

A link to the full ET judgement in the Game Retail case can be found below:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/592d608ee5274a5e510000fa/Game_Retail_Ltd_v_Mr_C_Laws_UKEAT_0188_14_DA.pdf

Creighton v Together Housing Association Ltd ET/2400978/2016

The employee was a manager of 30 years’ service with the Association, but found himself dismissed for tweeting disparaging remarks about colleagues. These tweets were 2 or 3 years old, but they came to light when another colleague took a grievance against him.

Held: by the Employment Tribunal that the dismissal (on grounds of the employee’s conduct) was fair in terms of Section 98 of the Employment Rights Act 1996. This may seem a harsh decision given that the employee had 30 years of service with his employer, but the Tribunal was clearly of the view that the employer had acted fairly and dismissal was in the reasonable band of responses for such behaviour. In some respects, this case has similarities to another Tribunal decision, Plant v API Microelectronics Ltd (ET Case No. 3401454/2016) 30th March 2016 which was discussed in the blog entitled It happened outside work (or it’s my private life!, which was published on 7 February 2019

Conclusion

The above 3 cases, once again, demonstrate the dangers of social media misuse – whether in the work place or outside. Employers are very foolish if they fail to put a clear social media policy in place. From the employees’ perspective, it is of critical importance that they are (a) aware of the existence of such a policy; and (b) they have read and understood its contents.

It will also be highly advisable for employers to update social media policies on a regular basis (especially as new platforms and technologies will continue to be developed) and to ensure that social media awareness is part and parcel of induction and training regimes.

Admittedly, there are pitfalls for employers: unauthorised or unjustified surveillance of employees could be viewed as a breach of privacy.

Expect this area of employment relations, to continue to generate some interesting case law in the weeks, months and years to come.

Postscript

Following on from the tweets posted by the rugby player, Israel Folau, a second rugby star is embroiled in a further homophobic social media row:

Israel Folau: RFU to meet England’s Billy Vunipola after he defended Australian’s comments

The Rugby Football Union says it does not support Billy Vunipola’s views after the England forward defended Israel Folau’s social media post claiming “hell awaits” gay people.

Copyright Seán J Crossan, 11 April 2019

Everyday experiences of racism

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

In several of my previous blogs (Stick and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me? published on 22 February 2019 and Hurt feelings published on 14 February 2019), I considered the psychological impact of racist behaviour on the victim.

A person’s race, of course, is a protected characteristic in terms of the Equality Act 2010.

Courts and Tribunals are permitted to factor into a compensation award an element for the injury to feelings that a victim of discrimination has suffered. This calculation is carried out by reference to a scale known as the Vento Guidelines.

Injury to feelings can encompass, amongst other things, sensations of isolation, exclusion, anxiety and depression, fear, loss of self-esteem and even post traumatic stress.

An interesting example of how black people can encounter racism on a daily occurrence was reported by the BBC today.

The writer, Derek Owusu talks about the fact that, very often, white people do not wish to sit beside him on public transport. Doubtless, these kinds of experiences have a very negative effect on the wellbeing of many individuals in Derek Owusu’s situation. What should otherwise be a routine commute can turn into a nerve-wracking experience.

A link to the article and a video on the BBC News site can be found below:

Derek Owusu: ‘There are always empty seats beside me’

Writer Derek Owusu says his commute on public transport reveals the everyday racist actions black men in particular are subjected to in the UK.

In UK academic circles, it would seem that less favourable treatment in relation to a person’s race is widespread with a looming ethnic pay gap as the story below demonstrates:

Ethnic minority academics earn less than white colleagues

BBC analysis shows a 26% ethnic pay gap at some of the UK’s best-known universities.

Copyright Seán J Crossan, 10 April 2019

Drunk and disorderly?

Photo by Bobby Rodriguezz on Unsplash

Misconduct

Several of my previous blogs have focussed on misconduct inside and outside the work place. In the most serious cases of (gross) misconduct, an employer could fairly dismiss an employee (Section 98(2)(b): Employment Rights Act 1996.

That said, employers are well advised to follow proper pre-dismissal procedures – usually in line with the latest ACAS Code of Practice on Discipline and Grievance at Work.

Summary (i.e. on the spot) dismissal can be an appropriate response to a breach of discipline by an employee, but I tend to caution employers against this. The eminent English judge, Sir Roger Megarry VC was quite correct to warn employers about the dangers of what they might perceive to be an open and shut case (see John v Rees & others [1969] 2AER 274, CD). It’s always better to be safe rather than sorry and by carrying out a procedure, the employer is minimising its exposure to risk i.e. the possibility of a successful unfair dismissal claim brought by the employee.

A typical disciplinary process usually consists of the following stages:

  • Stage 1: The investigation of the allegations
  • Stage 2: The disciplinary meeting
  • Stage 3: The appeal hearing

If the investigation uncovers clear evidence that the employee should be exonerated of all allegations of misconduct, the employer is legally bound to put a stop to the disciplinary process (see A v B [2003] IRLR 405; Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust v Roldan [2010] EWCA Civ 522; Miller v William Hill Organisation Ltd UKEAT/0336/12/SM [2013])

It is also important to note that the employer must set out the disciplinary charges as clearly as possible so that the employee can prepare her case. The employer cannot, under any circumstances, play fast and loose with the disciplinary charges as this may undermine the integrity of the entire disciplinary procedure (see Strouthos v London Underground [2004] IRLR 636 CA and Celebi v Scolarest Compass Group UK & Ireland Ltd UKEAT/0032/10/LA [2010]).

If, however, matters proceed to a formal, disciplinary meeting, the allegations must be put to the employee and the evidence which supports them. The employee in turn has the right to present her case to the disciplinary panel or manager taking the proceedings. In terms of the Employment Relations Act 1999, the employee has a right to be accompanied by a colleague or a recognised trade union representative.

Should the disciplinary meeting arrive at a decision to dismiss the employee for misconduct, it is extremely important to allow an appeal (see West Midlands Co-operative Society v Tipton [1986] 1 ALL ER 513). An appeal can lead to the dismissal being upheld or overturned; and it can be used to cure any defects in the previous stages of the disciplinary proceedings.

Discipline at work

It’s very common (indeed essential) for employers to have detailed codes of practice or discipline which regulate the behaviour of employees inside and outside the work place. The content of disciplinary codes should be clearly communicated to employees. For new employees, this could be carried out as part of their induction process. For existing employees, a regular series of training seminars or development events could accommodate this aim. The urban myth that what happened outside the work place is no business of the employer is that exactly that: a dangerous myth. If staff misbehaviour outside working hours causes serious reputational damage to the business or the organisation, the employer is entitled to treat this as gross misconduct and to use the ultimate disciplinary sanction of dismissal.

Examples of gross misconduct might include any of the following:

  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Acts of bullying & harassment
  • Fraud
  • Negligent performance of duties
  • Theft
  • Persistent late-coming

The above list is by no means an exhaustive one, but it covers some of the most common examples of gross misconduct.

As I have discussed in a previous blog, It happened outside work (or it’s my private life!) (published on 7 February 2019), employers do not have an automatic right to meddle in employees’ private lives. The right to a private life is protected in terms of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (as implemented by the both the Scotland Act 1998 and the Human Rights Act 1998). Employers will have to walk a very fine line between what is a legitimate act to protect their business interests and what would otherwise be unwarranted interference in the private lives of employees.

Lloyd’s of London

So, bearing all of the above in mind, it was with some interest that I read today that Lloyd’s of London, the financial giant, was introducing a new code of conduct for employees. This is in the wake of some unpleasant allegations being disclosed about the business – sexual harassment claims and drunkenness and drug taking.

Traditionally, the serving of alcohol at business meetings in the City of London or long, boozy lunches were as much a fixture of the Square Mile as was St Paul’s Cathedral. Alcohol oiled the wheels of commerce it was thought, but it also encouraged people to behave recklessly within a work environment.

It would seem that, in other work places, employees seem to know that they can’t turn up for work under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but Lloyd’s obviously feels that it still has a problem with these issues and they need to be addressed. Admittedly, two years ago, the organisation did ban employees from drinking alcohol between 0900 and 1700 hours.

The new code of conduct at Lloyd’s will apply not only to its 800 employees, but also to any person who holds a pass to its London HQ (potentially such 40,000 individuals). Anyone attempting to enter Lloyd’s HQ who appears to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol (or both) will be denied admission to the premises.

A link to the BBC News article about the new code of conduct at Lloyd’s can be found below:

Lloyd’s of London insurance has a new code of conduct, but not everyone welcomes it.

Lloyd’s of London calls time on drink and drugs

Photo by Boris Stefanik on Unsplash

Conclusion

Misconduct by employees – both in and outwith the work place – can be used by employers as a potentially fair reason for dismissal in terms of Section 98 of the Employment Rights Act 1996. Employers must ensure that employees clearly understand what is expected of them in terms of their conduct. It is very important, however, that employers carry out proper procedures when contemplating dismissal as the ultimate sanction for breaches of the disciplinary code. By implementing a new code of conduct, Lloyd’s of London is carrying out a risk management exercise i.e. spelling out what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour in and outside the work place. This is very wise given the bad publicity which Lloyd’s has experienced in the past regarding allegations of employee misconduct.

Copyright Seán J Crossan, 9 April 2019

The trouble with veganism …

Photo by Kylli Kittus on Toimetaja tõlkebüroo: https://toimetaja.eu/

… is that it’s shameful and un-Australian according to Scott Morrison, Prime Minister of that country. The Australian Premier spoke as the country witnessed nationwide protests by vegans (Some of whom chained themselves to abattoirs, amongst other things). The protesters are, of course, attempting by their actions to highlight the issue of cruelty to animals.

Mr Morrision’s remarks are certainly two of the more interesting descriptions (criticisms) of veganism that I’ve heard uttered recently.

In a number of previous Blogs, I’ve discussed the possibility of veganism being regarded as a philosophical belief capable of being legally protected in terms of the Equality Act 2010. At the time of writing, we still await the decision of the London Employment Tribunal in the matter of Casamitjana v the League Against Cruel Sports (which was lodged in late 2018) as to whether veganism should be a legally protected, philosophical belief.

A link to the story from Australia can be found on the BBC News website:

Vegan protests: ‘Un-Australian’ activists arrested, PM Morrison says

Scott Morrison rebukes animal rights activists after dozens are arrested in nationwide protests.

A special report by Peter Egan for Sky News raises serious considerations about veganism.

Egan, a British actor who was well known to audiences in the 1970s and 1980s, is now a prominent animal rights activist and I think it can be fairly implied that he probably thinks veganism is an ethical choice which should be capable of respect in a democratic society. After all, in 2011, the Employment Tribunal decided that an animal rights activist who believed in the sanctity of all animal and human life held protected, philosophical beliefs (anti-fox hunting beliefs) and should not be discriminated as a consequence of them (see Hashman v Milton Park (Dorset) Ltd (t/a Orchard Park) ET/3105555/2009).

A link to Egan’s report for Sky News can be found below:

https://news.sky.com/story/i-visited-a-dog-meat-market-the-horror-keeps-me-awake-at-night-11684081?

A link to the Hashman judgement can be found below:

https://uk.practicallaw.thomsonreuters.com/Link/Document/Blob/I42aa7bb90c5511e498db8b09b4f043e0.pdf?targetType=PLC-multimedia&originationContext=document&transitionType=DocumentImage&uniqueId=27215574-54b1-4c5f-b839-6b11ecab733a&contextData=(sc.Default)

Copyright Seán J Crossan, 8 April 2019