The news has recently been full of the “N-word” controversy involving Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson. Even politicians have waded into the act on Twitter, expressing their views on whether Clarkson should or should not have been sacked after footage (some several years old) was published of him using the playground rhyme “Eeney Meeny Miny Mo” and appearing to use the racist term.
It has been reported that, despite calls for his dismissal, Clarkson has been put on a final warning by the BBC and, according to him, if he makes “one more offensive remark, anywhere, at any time [he] will be sacked”.
Incidents of employees allegedly making racial, sexual or other discriminatory remarks must be dealt with quickly and fairly. Remember:
- Make sure that employees know what is expected of them. Have an up-to-date Equal Opportunities Policy in place which includes clear examples of unacceptable behaviour.
- Ensure that appropriate training is given to employees on equality, harassment and bullying. Make sure that managers know how to deal with any incidents of unacceptable behaviour, and that nothing should be “swept under the carpet”.
- If an incident occurs, make sure that proper processes are followed. If the employee has more than 2 years’ service, they have a right not to be unfairly dismissed. Any disciplinary action must follow a fair process, and the disciplinary sanction (if any) applied must be within reasonable parameters.
- If there is third party pressure to dismiss the employee, this may give the employer a fair reason to justify a dismissal. However, the pressure must be real and proper. The employer must demonstrate that it is reasonable to dismiss the employee because of the third party pressure.
It may be the case that Clarkson was saved by mitigating factors such as the fact that he does not (apparently) clearly use the term, that he tried to stop the footage being released and that he made a public apology. Employers must take all relevant factors into account when deciding what disciplinary sanction to apply, or they could risk an expensive unfair dismissal claim.
For employment advice in London and St Albans, please contact employment solicitor Joanne Perry of Sherrards Solicitors