Failure to investigate racist remark cost HMRC £24k

The employer of a man who felt unable to return to work after a contractor 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 office where he worked, but HMRC felt that it was more appropriate for the perpetrator’s employer to discipline him and then failed to ensure this had been adequately carried out.

The case focused on an incident that took place in 2016, when a power failure meant the lights went out in the office in Manchester. The employee was walking through a corridor when a facilities contractor shouted at him: “It’s a good thing you’re wearing a white shirt or I wouldn’t have seen you.”

The employee complained but as the contractor continued to work in the office the employee did not feel that he could return to work. He later complained that he was unhappy with the time being taken for the organisation to investigate the incident and confirmed that he was suffering from high blood pressure and was worried about his mental health. He was subsequently sent a warning for his unacceptable absence.

Eventually, he was told that the matter was out of HMRC’s hands as they had passed the incident to the contractor’s employer to investigate.  The tribunal found that HMRC did not adequately investigate the incident and that they should have taken steps to remove the “known discriminator from the workplace”.

The employee was awarded a total of £24,646, including £15,000 for injury to feelings.

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