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Three Ireland investigating claims black employee was racially abused

Jesse Ojuka said he was called the n-word by customers in the store.

Image: Jesse Ojuka

A BLACK IRISHMAN has alleged he was subjected to racial abuse by a former staff member and customers of a Three Ireland store.

His claims are now under investigation by the company.

Jesse Ojuka, 22, told TheJournal.ie he was repeatedly called the n-word by members of the public while working in the store. He has spoken out about his experiences to raise awareness of the type of abuse that customer service staff can face, he said. 

Three Ireland said it “completely and utterly condemns any kind of racist behaviour to either our employees or customers” and said it would be investigating the matter fully. 

Ojuka said that the racism he experienced became so regular that he began taking notes of times and dates of the incidents. 

On one occasion, he claims that a member of staff, who no longer works for the company, said: “Jesse loves Christmas because he gets to be on the front of a Trocaire box.”

  • Our colleagues at Noteworthy are proposing to investigate racism in Irish workplaces and recruitment processes. See how you can support this project here.

One incident in the middle of June involving customers required garda intervention, Jesse said. 

He said: “Customers came into the shop and became aggressive, shouting racist things at me. More senior members of staff were there but it was me who actually kind of guided these people out of the shop while they were abusing me. 

“The gardaí came down and took a statement. People said to me after, ‘oh wasn’t that terrible’ but there was nothing done for me [by the store] at the time. I was the one being abused.” 

Ojuka said prior to this incident, he experienced racism in the store over the 10 months he was there.

“I became so used to it. There was one main person behind it. He doesn’t work there anymore, but he never tried to hide it. I was on probation at the time so I didn’t want to bring it up and be seen as someone who is going to be a problem and is going to HR already. But the racism happened constantly in front of staff members. 

“It got to a point where I would avoid [the former staff member]. It just struck me that if people in the shop aren’t talking about the racism at this level, what good would it be to bring it somewhere higher, especially when I haven’t finished my probation.”

However, Ojuka said he used the recent swell of public support surrounding the death of George Floyd in the US to raise the racism he was experiencing with his firm.

“Look, I didn’t want to bring up stuff before but now I felt that I could. I told the manager what was happening. He said ‘we’ll speak about it later’ but I never heard anything back,” he said.

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On Friday, Ojuka was informed that he was not going to be kept on past his probation period. Management stated this was due to him being late on two occasions.

He emailed HR to appeal the decision and in his appeal mentioned everything that had been happening to him. He claims that HR responded after he posted his experiences on social media.

He says that HR told him he was still technically employed as he was “in the system” and would remain employed until the appeal process finished. 

However, Ojuka said he will not take the job back if it is offered to him, and that his sharing of his situation on social media was not about the employment but to raise awareness of what it’s like for a young, black Irishman to work in areas such as customer service. 

The Three Ireland statement released to TheJournal.ie reads: “At Three, we oppose racism in all its forms. Three is a company that is open and inclusive for everyone and we have policies in place to ensure equality for all minority groups.

“Three does not tolerate racism and has launched a full internal investigation into these reports towards an employee. Three is engaging directly with the employee and will take all necessary steps to ensure issues like this do not occur in the future.”

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