Published July 2016
The United Arab Emirates is home to over 200 nationalities and is considered to be one of the most cosmopolitan countries in the world. In such a culturally diverse nation, it is important to have a legislation that combats discrimination and hate. The UAE government recently passed Federal Legislation (Federal Decree Law No 2 of 2015 On Combating Discrimination and Hatred) in July, 2015 which criminalizes blasphemy, discrimination and hate speech and lays down severe punishments for any persons committing these crimes (the “Anti-Hate Law”). This article focuses on some key issues which businesses in the UAE may face in relation to the Anti-Hate Law.
The Anti-Hate Law prohibits any discrimination among individuals or groups based on the grounds of religion, sect, race, colour or ethnic origin. A key impact of this can be seen in the workplaces, where employees may raise allegation of discrimination against their managers or colleagues. Employers can take simple precautions that may help them mitigate the risks involved, such as having a strong internal policy against discrimination and providing employees with adequate training regarding practices which are deemed to be discriminatory. In addition, employees should adopt transparent and objective appraisal methods especially in relation to promotions and salary increments.
Article 17 of the Anti-Hate Law targets representatives, directors or agents of a legal entity, where crimes under the Anti-Hate Law are committed with their knowledge by any employee. Thereby exposing such persons to the penalties prescribed for the committed crime. Furthermore, the company or the corporate entity is vicariously liable for the crimes committed by their employees. In the event supervisors or individual employers who have ‘knowledge’ of the crime, they may also be deemed liable for the crime committed by an employee during the course of their business hours or whilst in the act of completing their duties. In such instances, it is important to understand how the courts may interpret the term ‘with knowledge’. The term ‘knowledge’ used in the provision of the law should be ideally interpreted to mean a situation where there is active participation of such supervisors or individual employers, similar to ‘connivance’ which is a term often used in common law jurisdictions. However, this interpretation under the current Anti-Hate Law has still not been tested by the local judicial system. As an example, where an employee has sent an offensive email to a client, copying his employer or manager, then a question which may arise is whether the employer or manager who is marked in the email will be liable for the crime, or more so how would he prove that he had no ‘knowledge’ of the crime?
There is some respite for employers and managers under Article 19 of the Anti-Hate Law, since it exempts a perpetrator from penalty if he/she reports the same to the judicial or administrative authorities before the discovery of such crime. Hence, employers would be expected to act swiftly and report any such crimes committed by their employees if they are hope to remove any form of liability placed on them by virtue of Article 17.
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