As of today, UK companies can no longer use the “bastard defence” against claims of sexist abuse.
The bastard defence rests on the claim that you’re not being sexist if you call a female colleague a silly cunt, because you’re just as likely to call a male colleague a stupid bastard. This “we’re just as foul to everyone so it’s not abusive” is a different Bastard Defence from the one used by Australian cricketer Brad Hogg earlier this year. He had to claim that calling members of the Indian team bastards wasn’t intended as an insult to their descent (which would be illegal) but merely to their lineage. I wonder what the players’ fathers made of the distinction.
Bad enough that foul-mouthed employees might cost more money in law suits. But British bosses now have to worry about their customers, too. According to the Financial Times, the law which comes into force today will make an employer liable for sexist and abusive language on the part of customers. It gets worse. A company can be prosecuted if a third party takes offence at an insult aimed at some absent soul. So if the Arsenal team members make rude jokes about women when they’re in the all-male locker room and a particularly delicate flower is upset on behalf of his girlfriend, he can take Arsene Wenger and co. to the cleaners. The Daily Mail doesn’t seem to have found the story yet, but I’m sure it won’t be long before we hear the siren calls of “Pollitical Correctness Gone Mad”.