UK Laws to Silence the Office Joke

by Jason Groves – London
Sunday Mail (Australia)
3rd October, 2010

Draconian new equality laws in Britain could spell the end of the office joke.

Home Secretary Theresa May has pushed ahead with 90 per cent of the Equality Act championed by Labour’s 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 “intimadating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment”.

A one-off incident is enough to sue, and 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.

And business leaders warned the equality laws could derail Britain’s economic recovery, with fears employers will face a tidal wave of trivial discrimination claims.

Tory MP Philip Davies said the decision to press ahead with Labour’s Equality Act showed the “politically correct consensus is still alive and well in Government”.

“This is Harriet Harman’s politically correct legacy, full of stuff thatis completely barmy to most people.” Mr Davis said. “It will be the end of the office joke.”

In other provisions of the act: vegans, teetotallers and athests will be given the same protection against discrimination as religious groups.

And churches will be forced to hire homosexuals and transsexuals.

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