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Recently there has been a particular focus on workplace etiquette most recently highlighted by the allegations which have been highlighted relating to Christian Horner. Mr Horner, as many will likely be aware, is the Team Principal for Red Bull Racing, one of the teams who compete on the F1 circuit and was recently the subject of a complaint by an employee who alleged that he had engaged in unspecified (at least publicly) inappropriate behaviour.

Currently the facts regarding the matter that have made it to the public sphere are limited. What is currently known, as reported by the BBC is as follows:


  • An allegation of inappropriate behaviour has been made against Mr Horner by a female employee – the specifics of that allegation have not, to date, been confirmed publicly.
  • Red Bull have advised that following an investigation into the allegations, they have been dismissed; and
  • As of March 7th, the BBC have reported that the employee who alleged impropriety has been suspended by Red Bull


It is worth at this time giving some consideration to the legal implications which would apply to these matters and what, if any, claims could arise against a general background claims of “inappropriate behaviour” in the workplace.


General Bullying

The specific nature of the allegations against Mr Horner (and of course evidence relating to the same) have not been made public and therefore this is general consideration of risk in management and not any specific comment on the current situation.

From a legal perspective, it is important to note that generally no claim against the company would arise solely from bullying. That is not to say that Mr Horner could not get into trouble with his employer or be dismissed for such conduct, but as an employer, provided employment remained ongoing and there is no evidence to link the conduct to a relevant protected characteristic, then it is unlikely there would be any external legal consequences (with the exception of potential personal injury claims).



In the circumstances, it appears that the most likely risk in this instance to Red Bull would be a potential claim for harassment.

The Equality Act 2010 (“the Act”) sets out that there are two types of harassment under s. 26 of the Act an employee is subject to harassment when an employee (A) engages in unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, and the conduct has the purpose or effect of violating another employee (B)’s dignity, or  creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for B. this is often referred to as “standard harassment”.  This type of harassment is a complaint that can be raised in relation to all protected characteristics (with the exception of pregnancy and maternity discrimination) and would encompass conduct such as using racial epithets in the workplace, ableist or sexist language and homophobic conduct, among other such examples.

The equality act also sets out a separate type of harassment specifically defined as sexual harassment. S.26(2) of the Act sets out that this applies in instances where  A engages in unwanted conduct of a sexual nature, and the conduct has the purpose or effect referred of violating B’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for B.

It will also amount to sexual harassment where an employee is treated less favourably because they refuse to submit to conduct of a sexual nature than they would have been had they submitted (i.e. demoting or dismissing an employee for refusing to engage in sexual conduct would also amount to harassment).



An interesting additional point has been brought up by the suspension of the accuser in this instance. If the accuser has raised issues of discrimination, then it is possible that she has undertaken a protected act. If so, in most circumstances, the employee will be protected from retaliatory action under section  27 of the Equality. Act. S.27 set out that where an employee undertakes a protected act, something which is broadly defined as


  • bringing proceedings under this Act;
  • giving evidence or information in connection with proceedings under this Act;
  • doing any other thing for the purposes of or in connection with this Act;
  • making an allegation (whether or not express) that A or another person has contravened this Act.


Then it is unlawful for the employer to subject that person to detriment, because they undertook that protected act. However, it should be noted that employees will not be considered to have undertaken a protected act where they have  given false evidence or information, or made a false allegation,  where the allegation is made in bad faith under section 27(3) of the act. Case law has set the bar for a bad faith act to be high though, so employers should be particularly careful that they are satisfied that an act was undertaken in bad faith before taking any steps to subject the employee to detriment. Incorrect information given in genuine good faith, will still entitle the employee to the relevant protection.



It is important to note that it is impossible to know whether or not any of these would apply to the current situation in the media, however these are important as a constant reminder to the employer and employee to be vigilant against any such conduct and to be prepared to take necessary action to correct such issues.