Draconian new equality laws could spell the end of the office joke.
Ministers yesterday announced that the vast bulk of Labour’s controversial Equality Act would be implemented immediately, despite concerns about its impact on business and office life.
The legislation, championed by Labour’s deputy leader Harriet Harman, introduces a bewildering range of rights which allow staff to sue for almost any perceived offence they receive in the workplace.
Equal measures: Home Secretary Theresa May has pushed ahead with 90 per cent of the Equality Act championed by Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman
It creates the controversial legal concept of ‘third party harassment’, under which workers will be able to sue over jokes and banter they find offensive – even if the comments are aimed at someone else and they weren’t there at the time the comments were made.
They can sue if they feel the comments ‘violate their dignity’ or create an ‘intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment’.
A one-off incident is enough to sue – there is no need for the ‘victim’ to have warned the perpetrator that their comments are unwelcome.
They could even have a case against their employer if a customer or contractor says something they find offensive.
One critic suggested employers could have to outlaw office banter to prevent offending anyone.
That nation is doomed.
This is the future:
"Purchasing, Accounting here. Begin transmit interrogatory regarding purchase order five-niner-zero--"
"Oh, hey, Jim! Nice to hear from you! Did you hear about Joe's--"
"--Cease extraneous communications immediately. Lawsuit threat level has been detected. Initiate compensatory logging of incident."