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5th November 2018

Employee who suffered racist insult from contractor awarded £26,000 for discrimination

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The employer of a man who felt unable to return to work after a co-worker shouted a racist remark at him in a corridor was guilty of racial discrimination for failing to adequately investigate his complaints, a tribunal has ruled.

The HMRC employee was subjected to the insult by an on-site contractor at the tax office where he worked, but the organisation suggested it was more appropriate for the perpetrator’s employer to discipline him and failed to ensure this had been adequately carried out, Manchester Employment Tribunal found.

Denise Keating, CEO of enei, commenting on the tribunal said:

“The case highlights the difficulties an employer can face when dealing with complaints about discrimination by a third party service provider against one of its own employees, the only black staff member in a team of 170 people. Here the employer had an explicit “zero tolerance” policy in respect of racial discrimination, and its service agreement with the contractor clearly provided that the contractor’s staff were to be “properly and adequately notified, trained and instructed…with regard to all client policies and other mandatory and statutory requirements”. Although the Employment Tribunal did not accept the claim that there was a “culture of racism”, it was clear that the employer could and should have done more to police the effectiveness of its zero tolerance policy rather than relying on individual employees to pursue a formal grievance where discrimination was alleged. Together with other failings, the lack of investigation by the employer of the complaints served to illustrate that it at times paid only lip service to what were avowed to be robust diversity and equality policies.

Although the employer attempted to remedy the situation by organising a priority diversity and inclusion training session, and sending out an all-staff email reminding employees of the zero tolerance policy, the Tribunal seems to have regarded this as too little, too late. Employers need to take a proactive stance in promoting and publicising their policies as being a core component of the organisation’s values.”

Read the People Management article to find out more about the tribunal case