Not inviting a colleague to work drinks is victimisation, London tribunal rules

Young woman looking sad and sitting apart from group of chatting people
The one said she felt "shunned" after her colleagues excluded her from work drinks. Photo credit: Getty Images

Failing to invite a colleague to work drinks is victimisation, an employment tribunal has ruled, with a casino worker receiving £75,000 (NZ$146,500) in compensation.

Rita Leher, a 51-year-old cashier, said she felt "shunned" by her colleagues at Aspers Casino in Westfield Stratford City, a shopping centre in Stratford, east London. She claimed her coworkers went out for drinks at the Latin American restaurant and cocktail bar, Las Iguanas - which is located in the same mall - but she was the only one not to receive an invite.  

Fellow cashiers also "insensitively" discussed the social gathering in front of her, the tribunal heard, as reported by The Telegraph.

Leher, who has since left the company, has now been awarded £74,113 in compensation after the judge ruled that deliberately excluding a colleague from work drinks amounts to victimisation.

In her ruling, Judge Sarah Moor said excluding an employee is a "detriment at work" as they "lose the opportunity to bond with colleagues", as reported by The Telegraph.

Leher, who is of Black heritage, also won claims of unfair dismissal and race and age discrimination. The tribunal heard that the former employee had seen many of her colleagues promoted over the years, but none were mixed race. She claimed that those who received promotions were also younger than her. She claimed she had been repeatedly rejected or ignored by her superiors after applying for higher positions within the company, which she began working at in November 2011.

The panel concluded that Leher had been excluded from the event at Las Iguanas as her colleagues "did not wish to socialise with someone who had complained of discrimination".

"We unanimously agree that being excluded from discussions at work about a social occasion amongst colleagues when one would normally be included would subject an employee to a detriment at work," Judge Moor said, as reported by The Telegraph.

"A reasonable employee would consider that such exclusion was to their disadvantage because they had lost the opportunity to bond with colleagues on that social occasion.

"The occasion was sufficiently linked to work by the fact that it was amongst work colleagues and was discussed at work and would provide the opportunity for team bonding.

"We unanimously agree that this was because Ms Leher had complained about victimisation."

The £74,113.65 (NZ$144,752.87) in compensation was awarded to Leher on the basis of injury to feelings and loss of overtime for her successful claims of unlawful victimisation, unfair dismissal and race and age discrimination.

Last month, a man was awarded US$450,000 (NZ$668,600) in a US employment court after his former employers threw him an unwanted party for his birthday. According to the lawsuit, the man - who suffered from anxiety disorders - specifically asked his manager not to celebrate his birthday at work as it could potentially trigger a panic attack. However, his colleagues went ahead and organised a surprise party - which caused him to suffer a series of attacks.

And last week, another English employment tribunal ruled that calling a man 'bald' can be considered sex harassment, as hair loss is more prevalent among men.