Humiliation is not humorous. But how many of us know the difference when it comes to what happens in the workplace? I’d like to think that most of us would spot when things should obviously not be said or done. But some people are clearly getting it quite spectacularly wrong as the attached article proves.

If an employee has a blunt demeanour or an unusual sense of humour, then both he/she and their employer need to be aware that this can create legal risk for each of them. So, for example, both that employee and his/her employer could unwittingly find themselves liable for unlawful harassment under the equality act if conduct by the employee that is intended to be innocuous or perhaps humorous, is misinterpreted, causes offence and covers one of the relevant legally protected characteristics, such as someone else’s disability.

The person on the receiving end of that comment or conduct may well have grounds to bring a complaint against both the employee and employer in an employment tribunal. Typically not a happy outcome for anyone involved.

In deciding whether conduct has the effect of violating someone else’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment, employment tribunals will take into account the victim's subjective perception of the conduct, and therefore each employee needs to be aware of how their comments or conduct may be perceived by those around him or her.

For employees, the best rule of thumb is that when in doubt, don’t say or do what you may be tempted to say or do. And check your employer’s dignity at work policy.

For employers, make sure you have a good dignity at work policy which sets out to your employees what you expect. Also provide regular awareness and training and refresher sessions to help managers and employees appreciate that they need to adapt their approach or personality traits to be properly respectful of those around them at all times.

You're on our blog and updates site, which is hosted by elXtr. elXtr is a leading online legal information service owned by us, LHS Solicitors LLP.

Law for the online generation starts here.