A car hire company on Queensland’s Fraser Coast is facing bankruptcy after an employee was subjected to horrific race discrimination, which culminated in a colleague giving him a can of sunscreen with BLACK GUY REPLLENT written on it.
It’s not known how much money the company will be forced to pay the worker who is of Maori background, but Employer Advisors estimates it will stretch into the tens of thousands of dollars.
The claim has been approved by WorkCover, allowing the man to sue for negligence.
In addition the case is going to be heard by the Anti-Discrimination Commission, where penalties are uncapped.
Employer Advisors said the case is a very important reminder to all bosses that they are vicariously liable for the actions of their staff, and can end up paying hefty penalties and compensation if discrimination or harassment is proven in their workplace.
In this case, the victim said his co-workers would make endless jokes about the colour of his skin, calling him a “black c**t” and “black bastard” and his boss would sometimes ask “where is the black fella?”
The worker was also mocked because although he was of Maori background, he has a Scottish name.
When the man once asked his boss for some sun shade for where he was working, he was told, “Nah mate, you don’t need it because you’re black.”
A co-worker then left a can of sunscreen for the man which was wrapped in gold tape and written on it were the words, “black guy repllent – caution! Only use on blacks”.
Miles Heffernan, Director of Litigation at Employer Advisors, said at that moment, the manager should have sought urgent expert advice, but instead he sent the worker responsible for the prank around to the victim’s house to apologise.
“The result of that was that my client felt intimidated, and that only made things worse for him,” Mr Heffernan said.
“This is a classic example of how not to manage a case of race discrimination in the workplace.”
Employer Advisors is urging companies to do all they can to protect themselves from claims like this, and it suggests the best way of doing that is to do all they can to prevent it from happening in the first place.
“All businesses should be organising formal training programs for all of their staff about discrimination and sexual harassment,” Mr Heffernan said.
“Companies should also have very clear policies in place and should ensure that all employees are aware of those policies, and the minute there is a sniff of trouble, it should be addressed and handled quickly and professionally, and if they have any doubt, they should seek urgent advice from experts like us.”
This case is set for mediation in the Anti-Discrimination Commission in a few weeks, and if a settlement isn’t reached, it will then move to the Industrial Relations Commission for a full hearing.
To read more about the case, please click here to visit our Discrimination Claims website.
If your business is defending an allegation of discrimination or sexual harassment, or if you are dealing with a current matter in your workplace, please call Employer Advisors on 1300 853 837 immediately for expert and confidential advice.
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