August 16, 2019

A Leeds City Council employee has won a racial harassment case after his supervisor made racist remarks while the pair were travelling in a works vehicle.

The case was initially brought against both the Council and the supervisor himself, however, the case against the Council was rejected after the employee accepted that the Council had done all it could to prevent the harassment.

In the end, the supervisor alone was ordered personally to pay compensation to the employee.

The Claimant, Mr Leader, was working alongside Mr Andrew Hossack on February 9th 2018, when Hossack made a derogatory comment about Mr Leader’s skin colour while travelling to a waste management site in Kirkstall.

During the journey, the pair were listening to a broadcast about the cold weather at the Winter Olympics, which prompted Hossack to make an unsavoury comment, suggesting that if Mr Leader thought it was cold in the UK, he should “take your black a*** over there.”

When questioned about the statement, Mr Hossack made a further remark related to Mr Leader’s race, before berating the driver of a Polish registered lorry, who was taking his time to move off. Mr Leader asked to be dropped off early, as he was feeling unwell, and he returned home feeling very distressed about the incident.

Shortly after the comments, Mr Leader informed his line manager about the situation, and he returned to work for his next shift. He requested not to work with Mr Hossack again, and having spoken with his employer, was assured that this arrangement would be put in place.

Mr Leader had two meetings with Leeds City Council in February, and the Council confirmed that the necessary procedures were being employed to deal with the incident. Although Mr Leader was not assigned to work with Hossack, he was neither suspended nor relocated, and subsequently, Mr Leader submitted a grievance in April 2018.

Initially, Mr Leader complained about both the council and Mr Hossack, but the claims against Leeds City Council were dismissed on the grounds that the Council had taken the necessary steps to prevent employees from making or receiving racist comments.

The tribunal was informed that the Council had investigated Mr Leader’s complaint, but that Mr Hossack resigned before the planned disciplinary hearing.

The ET ruled that Mr Leader had been subjected to racist harassment by Mr Hossack, and he was ordered to pay Leader compensation for injury to feelings plus interest. The fee was £2,769.

This case is an example of when claims can be brought not only against the employer (as the case with claims for unfair dismissal) but also against an individual in their personal capacity. This is because it concerned a complaint of unlawful discrimination.

This case is also slightly unusual in comparison to other employment tribunals in that the claim against the employer was dismissed fairly early on in the proceedings.

Mr Leader originally lodged complaints against the Council and Mr Hossack, but it was deduced that the Council had taken the necessary measures to prevent racism and that Mr Hossack had ignored procedures and policies.

Commenting on the case, Gwyn Edwards, a specialist employment lawyer with Neathouse Partners said “this case goes to show why employers should have robust policies on discriminatory behaviour and effective training on such matters. In this case, the employer did everything they could to prevent racism and this allowed them to defeat the claim at an early stage, rather than being dragged through many months of uncertainty and having the cost, publicity and disruption of a full Tribunal claim”.

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About the author 

James Rowland

James is the Commercial Director at Neathouse Partners and regularly writes articles surrounding issues in HR & Employment Law. Outside of the office, James is a keen Cricketer, playing in the Cheshire League for Nantwich CC. He also loves going to watch his football team, Crewe Alexandra. Feel free to connect with James on LinkedIn.

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