Sexual harassment in the work place – or on live TV?

The sacking in January of Andy Gray the football commentator by Sky Sports has brought the issue of sex discrimination into the news again.

The allegations against Mr Gray, which have been widely documented by the media, concern comments made to his co-presenter regarding the competency of a female assistant referee and remarks directed towards a female colleague whom he asked to ‘tuck his shirt in’. Whilst these comments can be seen as damaging to the reputation of Sky Sports, they would also give rise to potential sex discrimination issues.

The Equality Act 2010, which has been in force since October 2010, includes new provisions relating to harassment. With regard to the current situation, Mr Gray and his employers could find themselves facing potential claims for sexual harassment – on the grounds that his behaviour had the effect of, violating a claimant’s dignity, or of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them as members of the opposite sex and as such that it represented unwanted conduct towards them on the grounds of their sex. These claims could be made either by the female colleague to whom the comments were directed or indeed other staff members, as the unwanted conduct that gives rise to such a claim does not have to actually be directed at that particular individual, a claim can be made by others for whom the effect of the comment was the same.

The statements reported as being made by Mr Gray may well be considered by some to be purely banter and harmless. However employers should be careful to ensure that no member of staff is made to feel intimidated, degraded or humiliated as if they are this could give rise to an expensive and time consuming claim and should seek advice when dealing with allegations which could potentially amount to sexual harassment.

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