Raj v Capita Business Services Ltd and another UKEAT/0074/19

Facts

Mr Raj, a customer services agent, was given two or three brief shoulder massages by his female line manager while sitting at his desk in an open plan office. He brought a claim for sexual harassment. At the hearing, Capita gave evidence that the massages were misguided encouragement, in line with the department's humorous atmosphere, and argued that they were not related to Mr Raj's sex.

Decision

The claim was rejected by the Employment Appeal Tribunal. While the conduct was unwanted and had the effect of creating an intimidating or hostile environment for Mr Raj, it was not related to his sex, so did not fall within the definition of harassment in the Equality Act.

Comment

This decision is surprising and should not be seen as a green light for massages at work. There are legal risks associated with any physical contact in the workplace, particularly since compensation for a successful claim of sexual harassment is unlimited.