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Tribunal rules that recognising an employee’s birthday against their wishes can be deemed ‘unwanted conduct’

In the case of Ms. H T v Commissioners for His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, an employment tribunal ruled that sending a birthday card to a colleague who explicitly declined birthday celebrations constitutes harassment. Ms. KT, a tax worker, successfully sued HMRC, winning claims of race and disability harassment and discrimination.
happy birthday sign

In the case of Ms H T v Commissioners for His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs sending a card to a colleague who explicitly said they do not want their birthday celebrated can constitute harassment, an employment tribunal has ruled.

Ms KT, a tax worker who successfully sued HMRC after her supervisors sent her a birthday card despite her clear request not to celebrate it, was on sick leave due to work-related stress and had instructed that communication be minimised and conducted via email, the tribunal heard.

However, in the following month, she was contacted more than every other day and was sent a birthday card, despite informing her boss the previous year that she did not want one.

Ms KT, who suffers from a pituitary gland tumour exacerbated by stress, is now eligible for compensation after winning several claims of race and disability harassment and discrimination against the government department.

The judge concluded that the birthday card and repeated contact during her sick leave amounted to harassment, noting that HMRC’s duty of care would have been better served by respecting her wishes.

He also found Ms KT was victimised when her complaints were ignored and that the offer of a permanent transfer in exchange for withdrawing her grievance constituted race harassment.

Additionally, Ms KT won a claim of disability harassment after an HMRC report claimed her complaints were baseless and a result of her medication. She also won a claim of disability discrimination after being threatened with formal action for her continuing sickness absence.

A remedy hearing will determine her compensation at a later date.

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24 July 2024

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