Racism in the workplace was once again in the headlines last month following the accusations of harassment and bullying of cricketer Azeem Rafiq during his time at Yorkshire County Cricket Club due to his South Asian heritage. Rafiq stated that he was subject to “institutional racism” while playing for one of the top cricket clubs in Britain.
Not only did Rafiq’s teammates refuse to call him by his real name and referred to him with racial slurs, he also reported being pinned down and having a glass of wine poured in his mouth despite Muslims being prohibited from drinking alcohol. When addressed, the club stated that the racial slurs used were “banter”.
The ordeal led to Rafiq kickstarting a social media campaign using the hashtag #RacismIsNotBanter, in which he has been joined by many other well-known British-Pakistanis in highlighting the fact that racial slurs and discriminatory behaviour are not “banter”.
So, what constitutes racial discrimination?
Race discrimination has been illegal in the UK since 1976. Under the Equality Act 2010, race can mean your colour, nationality (including your citizenship), ethnic or national origin (which may not be the same as your current nationality).
Race discrimination can be direct or indirect. It can also take the form of victimisation or harassment and can also be by association.
- Direct race discrimination is when one person is treated less favourably compared to another person because of their race.
- Indirect race discrimination is when an organisation has put in place certain rules that are applicable to all employees but will put certain groups at a disadvantage.
- Racial victimisation is where you’re treated unfavourably because you’ve raised a complaint of racial discrimination against an organisation or one of its employees.
- Racial harassment is the creation of an environment that is hostile, offensive, humiliating, intimidating or degrading for a person of another race.
- Race discrimination by association is where an individual is discriminated against, not because of their own race, but due to the race of somebody they’re associated with.
How does this impact businesses?
It is the business’s responsibility to establish robust policies and procedures which are effectively communicated and regularly enforced via appropriate Diversity & Inclusion workforce training. Not only will this serve to educate staff in respect of the importance and benefits of a diverse workforce, it will also provide scope for the employer to run a statutory defence of any related discrimination claim where the victim is arguing that the company is vicariously liable for the alleged discriminatory actions of an individual, as it may then be possible to demonstrate that all reasonable steps were taken to prevent the individual from committing that alleged act.
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