Race and racism is such a sensitive issue and the consequences of being labelled a racist can be far-reaching. A perpetrator can face dismissal by their employer, whether the racist conduct was committed in the workplace or even outside of it, face criminal charges and action can be taken in the equality courts.

In the context of the workplace, there have been a growing number of instances in which employers have had to deal with false allegations of racism. They have had to consider what to do with an employee who has made this allegation, either maliciously, or even carelessly, against a colleague. 

But playing the race card, colloquially speaking, is now increasingly being recognized as a material misconduct on the part of an employee and has been recognized even by the Labour Appeal Court as justifying dismissal of the employee who made the unfounded allegation.

Employers should recognize that any allegations of racist conduct must be carefully investigated, with the due interests of the accused as well as the person making the allegation taken into account. 

Whoever has acted improperly in the matter – whether it be the person who actually acted in a racist manner, of the person who made the allegation maliciously to smear the other’s reputation, or where no reasonable grounds to found the allegation exist – must bear the consequences. Genuine racism is deservedly being systematically rooted out in all aspects of our society, not least in the workplace, in order to try and move away from the injustices of the past, and towards a more egalitarian society.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.