Christian Horner investigated over claims of inappropriate behaviour | Bolt Burdon Kemp Christian Horner investigated over claims of inappropriate behaviour | Bolt Burdon Kemp

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Christian Horner investigated over claims of inappropriate behaviour

The handling of allegations against Christian Horner raises serious concerns about the workplace culture and safety of women within the motorsport industry.

Earlier this year, Red Bull Racing chief executive Horner was accused of inappropriate and controlling behaviour towards a female colleague within his Formula One team. However after a confidential investigation, Red Bull has cleared Horner of any wrongdoing. The independent investigation launched by Red Bull was conducted by an external specialist barrister. When questioned about the allegations made against Horner, a spokesperson for Red Bull stated “the company takes this matter extremely seriously and the investigation will be completed as soon as practically possible”.

It has now been weeks since the launch of the investigation, and a report outlining the barrister’s findings has been submitted to Red Bull. The company has since stated “the investigation report is confidential and contains the private information of the parties and third parties who assisted in the investigation” and that therefore they “will not be commenting further out of respect for all concerned”, meaning it is unlikely the report will be made open to public scrutiny. As a result of the findings, the allegations made against Horner have been dismissed, and he was ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing. Red Bull said the complainant has a right of appeal, but it is understood the deadline for appeal has now passed.

One day following Red Bull’s dismissal of the grievance against Horner, an anonymous email was leaked to members of the media and senior stakeholders within the motorsport industry. The email contained messages allegedly exchanged between Horner and his female colleague. Gemini Project, a UK-based non-profit organisation working to end sexual violence, concerningly noted the leaked messages appear to contain “textbook sexual harassment”. The woman who accused Horner of inappropriate behaviour has been suspended from her role in the Formula One team as a result of Red Bull’s investigation. The Gemini Project labelled the suspension “an abject failure to the victim and to women”. They added: “This sends a message that Formula One does not care about women, their safety at work, or sexual harassment.”

It is reported Max Verstappen, a Formula One Driver for Red Bull Racing, has called upon the governing body for world motor sport, the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile, to respond to the allegations made against Horner by conducting their own investigation into the matter.
The president of the federation, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, is currently the subject of his own investigation in relation to allegations of attempted interference with Formula One races. Since the publication of the alleged messages, Horner has spoken out to reiterate that the grievance has been “fully investigated and dismissed”, noting that “an awful lot has been made out of this… we’re here to go racing”.

As the number of women pursuing careers in the motorsport industry is increasing, it is important both individual teams, as well as the governing body, are empowering victims of inappropriate workplace behaviour to speak up. It is hopeful the Federation Internationale de l‘Automobile will conduct their own investigation into the matter to ensure due diligence has been exercised by Red Bull. If the Federation finds Red Bull has inadequately investigated the matter, and subsequently failed to take further action to prevent future harm to their employees, they may face civil claims in negligence.

Abuse of any form should not be tolerated. If you have been the victim of sexual harassment, bullying, or assault at work, we encourage you to reach out to Bolt Burdon Kemp for a free and confidential conversation with one of our experts.

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