A recent case in the UK employment tribunal highlights that hurt feelings do not always equate to a valid claim under employment law. Jersey Employment law is likely to follow the same principle.
According to the judgment, the employee, claimed she was ‘utterly shocked’ when a fellow employee ‘jumped at her like a snake’ to ask about her birthday. Her colleague reportedly said: ‘It was your 50th wasn’t it, you can’t hide it you know’.
The upset employee left the office early, saying she was so upset by the incident that she ‘would not be able to concentrate further that afternoon’. In a letter to the firm, she said she had felt ‘ambushed, punched, slapped and humiliated’ by the ‘unsolicited’ comments. She added: ‘I come to work to earn money. Even so, I try to be friendly, polite and sociable. However, I’m a private person with a belief that personal matters can remain private and should do so if the individual wishes it.’
Staff at the firm had also sent the upset employee a birthday card in the post, in line with the office’s practice to mark each other’s birthdays.
The tribunal found inter alia that the upset employee‘s sensitivity about her age appeared ‘unusual and extreme’ and there was not sufficient evidence to show that other members of staff who were over 50 would have been treated differently. It added that the comment was ‘trivial and had not been delivered maliciously’ and ‘the birthday card was intended for the claimant as an act of kindness’.
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