City Firms in Fear of New Equal Rights Laws

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Byline: JAMES ROSSITER

THE twin-headed spectre of sex and religion is poised to catch thousands of British employers off guard today, when the biggest shake up in equal opportunity rights for a generation comes into force.

City lawyers have been inundated with requests from companies and banks to update them on employment policies and internal disciplinary procedures to cope with regulations on sexual orientation and religious belief - the first of its kind.

Employers are particularly worried by a new statutory offence of harassment, which could spell the end of office banter - particulary prevalent on the male-dominated trading floors of the City's banks.

Money broker Cantor Fitzgerald, which this summer lost a [pounds sterling]1 million constructive dismissal case to its former trader Steve Horkulak because of obscenitylaced bullying from his boss, has warned its London staff about "innocent comments" which could backfire.

A note to Cantor's human resources department from external lawyers Olswang headed "Sex, God and discrimination", warns employment tribunals "will take account of the perception of "victim" and so an oversensitive individual who takes offence at an innocent comment may be covered". …

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