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Dublin: 3°C Monday 12 April 2021

'Thinking you're being funny doesn't excuse it' - Asian man awarded €7,000 after racist graffiti appeared on wall at work

The man also claimed that a colleague had spoken to him in a racist ‘Chinese-style’ fashion.

shutterstock_581885554 File photo Source: Shutterstock/JakubPr

A MAN HAS been awarded €7,000 at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) after proving that he had been discriminated against due to his race.

The Asian man has worked for his employer, a distribution company, as a warehouse operative since March 2007.

He had outlined three instances to the WRC of issues that amounted to racist behaviour and, in one case, discrimination in terms of sexual orientation.

On 9 December 2014, graffiti relating to the Asian race was painted on a wall at the company’s premises. The complainant claimed that no investigation took place, although the graffiti was painted over.

On 10 December 2015, more graffiti appeared on the same wall, this time casting aspersions as to the man’s sexual orientation. Again the graffiti was painted over.

The final incident, in January 2017, related to a colleague addressing the Asian man in a “Chinese style ‘yingyingyandyang’” speech pattern.

This last incident led to the company carrying out an investigation after the complainant reported it to his supervisor, one which concluded that the other employee had ‘carried out a racist act’.

The punishment imposed was an informal warning. This fact was not made known to the man who had complained.

The complainant had requested that training be provided to his employer in how to carry out investigations.

He stated: “just because an employee thinks they are being funny doesn’t excuse their behaviour”.

‘All reasonable steps’

The employer, meanwhile, took the view that ‘all reasonable steps’ were taken to prevent the harassment.

The case was taken up by the WRC after the two parties failed to come up with a solution between themselves by the deadline of January 2018.

Adjudicating officer Eugene Hanly dismissed the incident regarding sexual orientation as it fell outside the statutory time limit for making a complaint of six months.

He drew a ‘continuum’ pattern however between the two complaints of racism, as he found them to be connected. He was satisfied that in the case of the first graffiti incident the company had ‘acted reasonably’ in painting over the wall in question, and referring staff to its personal harassment policy.

However, with regard to the third incident, Hanly said that an informal warning was ‘not a sufficient response to the act of racism’. He said that the company had not reviewed its existing policy ‘in the light of a recurrence of racism’.

As such, he said that the complainant had established a prima facie case of discrimination. He ruled that the company should provide training on discrimination in the workplace concerning race and sexual orientation.

“It is preferable that this training is provided by an external independent body,” he said.

He also ruled that the company should pay the man €7,000 within six weeks of the ruling date of 5 April.

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