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When Pocket dialling gets expensive!
A BT employee, Paul Tribe, was recently awarded more than £8k by an employment tribunal when he accidentally heard degrading and “foul-mouthed” comments made about him by his manager.

The tribunal found his employer to have been guilty of harassing the disabled fibre-optic joiner when the manager described the employee as a “bullshitter” whose job would have been better performed by an able-bodied employee.

The manager had not realised that the employee had overheard the comments he was making to someone else when he had accidentally “pocket-dialled” him. On realising that his manager was not aware that he had called him, Mr Tribe put the call on speakerphone so that it was witnessed by a fellow employee. When he was told about the call, the manager told the employee that if it happened again, he should simply hang up.

Mr Tribe, who suffers from Muscluar Dystrophy had been a BT employee since 1988.

The employment Judge described the phone call as amounting to a “violation of his dignity” and had the effect of creating “a degrading or humiliating environment for him”.

The key point to take from this case is that an employer’s defence that a comment related to a protected characteristic that was not directly communicated to the individual, but who merely overheard this, will not be enough to avoid a claim of harassment. So, make sure that your phone is locked when not in use – and better still, don’t make inappropriate comments about your staff!
Posted on 19 Nov 2018

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