Airport not liable for employee's 'racist' social media post

A security officer at Heathrow airport was unable to hold his employers liable for a racially offensive image he was subjected to on his colleague’s social media account.

Mr O Forbes said he suffered harassment, victimisation and discrimination after fellow security officer Deborah Stevens posted to her personal Facebook page a picture of a ‘golliwog’ with the caption: “Let’s see how far he can travel before Facebook takes him off.”

Mr Forbes was not connected to Ms Stevens on Facebook but he was made aware of the post by a third colleague. He told his line manager that ‘racist images’ were being shared in the workplace.

Ms Stevens said the image reminded her of her childhood.

A formal investigation took place and Ms Stevens was given a final written warning for conduct which was considered to be in breach of Heathrow’s dignity at work policy.

Mr Forbes was later signed off sick after he was moved to another location to avoid having to work alongside Ms Stevens, who remained at the original post.

He felt that he was being discriminated against because he had filed a grievance.

He took legal action against Heathrow for harassment, victimisation and discrimination but the Employment Tribunal dismissed his claims.

It held that Ms Stevens’ post could be seen as offensive on ‘racial origin grounds’ but it had not been sent while she was at work or with any reference to Heathrow or its employees. Nor was it sent using equipment belonging to the Airport.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld the ruling.

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