A recent Tribunal decision serves as a reminder to employers that the mere existence of workplace policies is insufficient to protect employers from employee claims. If a workplace policy is not effectively communicated to staff, an employer may be found vicariously liable for the actions of its employees, even when the employer has no active role in the prohibited behaviour.
The Northern Territory Anti-Discrimination Commission (Commission) recently upheld a race discrimination claim of an employee against two fellow employees, finding the employee had been treated less favourably in the workplace because of her race.
Under the Northern Territory’s Anti-Discrimination Act 2015, employers are not liable for the actions of its employees if ‘all reasonable steps’ have been taken to prevent employees engaging in discriminatory conduct.
In this instance the employer did have a ‘Policies and Procedures Manual’ as well as a term in its employment contracts obliging employees to ‘represent the organisation in a professional and respectful manner at all times’. However, the Commission found the employer had failed to provide any anti-discrimination training, had no development and implementation of an equal opportunity management plan, and had not published its anti-discrimination policy.
The employer’s failure to effectively communicate its anti-discrimination policy led to the Commission finding the employer vicariously liable for its employees’ actions.
If you need assistance with your workplace policies or any other workplace matter, please contact: