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Female manager massaging male colleagues shoulders - harassment or not?

A tribunal has found that a male colleague had been subjected to unwanted physical contact by his female team leader, when she massaged his shoulders on two or three occasions in the open plan office where he worked.

While this fell within the definition of harassment under the Equality Act 2010, i.e. creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment, it was held that the conduct was not related to the male colleagues’ sex. His claim for sexual harassment failed. The physical contact took place within the context of concerns about his performance. The manager had perceived the need to encourage him to perform to the best of his ability, the incidents had occurred in an open plan office with colleagues nearby and the contact was accompanied by the manager saying, “Well done,” or giving praise.

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