Don't Call the Barmaid Love ... by Order! Pub Chat: Bet Lynch and Mike Baldwin in Coronation Street

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Byline: Steve Doughty

BAR managers and store owners face large-scale compensation claims iftheir customers ogle their barmaids, waitresses or check-out staff.

New sex discrimination laws also mean that landlords who allow loud sexistjokes or banter among drinkers could be taken before a tribunal.

The regulations say that bosses are responsible for protecting their staff fromsexual harassment by customers - and that those who fail to do so can faceunlimited compensation claims.

They mean that a pub landlord could be sued if a bar worker complains aboutbeing called 'love', or over customers telling each other off-colour jokes.

Restaurant managers or hoteliers risk action if staff object to backchat fromdiners or guests asking for a date.

Lawyers said yesterday that businesses will need to show they have tried toclamp down on sexual harassment of workers by customers if they are to guardagainst the risk of compensation claims.

They advised pub operators to put up warning notices telling drinkers that'harassment is not tolerated'.

The regulations were pushed through by Women and Equalities Minister HarrietHarman, who has powers under European legislation to amend discrimination law.

Miss Harman has used a statutory instrument that does not require a division ordebate in Parliament. Complying with the rules is likely to cost 'micro andsmall' businesses more than [pounds sterling]10million, according to an assessment by theGovernment Equalities Office.

Last year the High Court ruled that existing sex discrimination law was notstrong enough to meet the demands of European directives.

However the regulations - which will come into force on Sunday - have sweepingimplications for employers, especially in the pub, restaurant and hotel trade.

Stuart Chamberlain, an employment law specialist at Consult GEE, said:'Employers may feel uncomfortable about confronting clients but they need to beaware that failing to take action could result in a claim for compensation,including for injury to feelings.

'Shops, bars or gyms may be able to put up notices explaining that harassmentof staff is not tolerated by the management. However, professional servicescompanies who encourage staff to socialise with clients may find it far moredifficult to convey that message.' The rules allow tribunals to award unlimiteddamages for injury to feelings if a case is proved. …