The current investigation into the alleged racist comments made by England and Chelsea Football Club player John Terry has highlighted the need for employers to act in situations where their employees are at risk of racism in the workplace. Under such circumstances, there is a duty on the employers part to ensure that all negative behaviour of that type is not tolerated.
An employer is legally responsible for acts of discrimination, harassment and
victimisation carried out by workers employed by them in the course of their employment. If an employee is the victim of racial abuse during the course of their employment then their employee may be held responsible for not protecting them against it.
As long as the worker was acting in the course of their employment, that is, while they were doing their job, regardless of whether or not the employer knew about, or
approved, they are responsible for ensuring that it doesn't happen. However, if it does, the correct action must be taken.
In the Chelsea example, if it is proven that Terry was racist in his remarks and no serious action is taken against him then that could be seen as condoning racism. In most jobs any employee proven to have racially abused someone would be summarily dismissed.
Since Terry is in a position of responsibility and expected to act as a role model as the captain, perhaps it could be said that the need to discipline him is even more pertinent. In addition, the fact that he works with a very racially diverse team means that in not disciplining him, the club is not suitably protecting the rights of their other players.
For an employer wishing to avoid any breach of duty to their employees one of the best methods here would be that of prevention. Through effective training and consultation an employer can help prevent racist comments and actions by ensuring that all staff know what behaviour will not be tolerated. There should be a clear disciplinary procedure in place and staff need to be aware that this will be followed in the strictest manner should a finding of racism occur. Summary dismissal would be the bottom line and the employer would be within their rights to do so as acts of racism are viewed in law to be an act of gross misconduct.
The fate of Terry rests in the outcome of further investigation, however, there is the opinion that the disciplining of such highly paid footballers may be slightly different to that of the average worker. The recent issue with Carlos Tevez has proved testament to that fact.