To pass any homophobic or racist comments off as banter seems completely out of touch with most people's views of such behaviour. But even today, this is still a widely used defence against allegations of harassment. Whether banter crosses the line into harassment will obviously depend on what was said, how it was said and who it was directed to. Another key factor which is often overlooked is the nature of the workplace. What counts as banter in a warehouse may well amount to discriminatory harassment if said in an office.
Alleged racist and homophobic jokes made by staff at a factory in Cardiff were no more than “banter”, the company’s head of HR has told a tribunal. Former warehouse operative Nathan Owens has filed an official complaint of harassment against Euro Quality Coatings Ltd on the grounds of race and perceived sexual orientation.