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Employer vicariously liable for race discrimination

Under discrimination laws an employer can be held vicariously liable for the actions of its employees if it fails to take all reasonable steps to prevent the conduct from occurring.

A tribunal recently warned all employers that they must not only have anti-discrimination policies in place but they must also ensure that the policies are “communicated effectively” to all employees or else the company can be held to be vicariously liable for discrimination.

The Northern Territory Anti-Discrimination Tribunal found that the “mere existence” of an employer’s policies and procedures manual and a clause in its employment contracts obliging workers to represent the organization in a professional and respectful manner at all times were insufficient to show that the employer had taken all reasonable steps to prevent the discriminatory conduct from occurring.  The conduct involved issues in relation to race discrimination.

Commissioner Rice stated “I have no evidence before me of any provision of any discrimination training, any development and implementation of an equal employment opportunity management plan, any publication of anti-discrimination policy, or the number of its workers and agents…The mere existence of policies are insufficient.”

Commissioner Rice then stated that there was no evidence “whether and how the employer communicated its policies effectively to executive officers and whether those officers accepted responsibility for promulgating the policies and for advising of the remedial action when breached.”

Message for Employers

Employers must not only have in place discrimination policies, but employees must be regularly and properly trained in relation to those policies.

How we can assist?

We can assist employers in ensuring that their bullying, harassment and discrimination policies are up to date and comply with recent legislation and case law.  We can also attend site and train your staff in relation to those policies.

Should we be able to assist you further, then please do not hesitate to contact Steve Gifford (Partner) on 07 3004 0966.

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