A tribunal case is being taken to appeal stage by the employee in the hopes of stamping out sex discrimination in the workplace.
The case of Warby v Wunda Group will be heard by the Court of Appeal this week after a woman employed by the company alleged that her manager had called into question a miscarriage she claimed happened earlier in the year during a heated dispute about her pay.
This led to concerns that the employer was practising sex discrimination and harassment, HR Magazine reported.
Naeema Choudry, partner at law firm Eversheds, told the publication that discrimination law is well understood by employers as there to protect staff from disadvantageous treatment because of their sex, race or disability.
“Unwanted conduct related to such protected characteristics will also constitute harassment if it creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the individual (whether or not intended),” she added.
“The important question in every case is the individual’s perception and where to draw the line between unreasonable or unpleasant conduct at work and conduct which is harassing or discriminatory in nature.”
But making that distinction can be hard for employers – especially if they are the ones receiving discriminatory complaints.
“The decision by the Court of Appeal, which is expected in the new year, should help to clarify whether the use of words in the workplace which refer to a protected characteristic are inherently discriminatory and, in causing offence, also qualify as unlawful harassment,” Choudry said.
Meanwhile, an appeal court judge has claimed that sex discrimination cases relating to equal pay are becoming “almost epidemic”.
Lord Justice Mummery says putting the “uncontroversial” matter of eradicating pay discrimination into practice is taking a long time as it involves “the clashing of rights not just between employer and employee, but also as between groups of employees”.