A manager called an employee a "terrorist" and although he later apologised, the employee was awarded DKK 5,000 in compensation by the Board of Equal Treatment.
Employers are required under the Danish Anti-Discrimination Act to provide a reasonably harassment-free workplace and protect their employees from harassment. This complaint before the Board of Equal Treatment concerned the issue of whether a manager's remarks about a childcare assistant constituted harassment within the meaning of the Danish Anti-Discrimination Act.
A childcare assistant of non-Danish ethnic origin worked at a kindergarten. On one occasion, the assistant's manager had asked around for "the black one" or "the dark one". On another occasion, where the assistant had walked in on a meeting, the manager had called him a "terrorist", which, according to the manager, was intended as a joking remark in light of the fact that the assistant had come barging in.
The assistant felt offended by the remarks and complained to the area manager. A reconciliation meeting was held where the manager apologised if his remarks could be seen as racist or offensive. The meeting ended with a handshake between the two parties. Even so, the assistant lodged a complaint with the Board of Equal Treatment, wanting financial compensation.
Joking remark or harassment?
Before the Board, the municipality argued that the manager had not intended to offend the assistant and that the remarks were not so hurtful as to qualify as harassment.
The Board held that the assistant – particularly given the nature of the second remark – had shown facts to create a presumption of discrimination. Although the assistant had acknowledged along the process that the municipality had taken care of the problem, the Board found that the nature of the second remark and the fact that it was made by a manager meant that the municipality had not discharged the burden of proving that it had provided a sufficiently harassment-free workplace. On those grounds, the assistant was awarded DKK 5,000 in compensation, reflecting that attempts had been made to resolve the conflict.
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