Manager’s ‘banter’ amounted to racial harassment

An employment tribunal has made a substantial award against a black employee as the result of several comments, treated as “banter” which amounted to racial harassment.  The tribunal heard that the manager suggested that there weren’t many black swimmers “because of class’’. The employee told the tribunal the conversation surrounding black swimmers arose after she explained she could not swim and did not like swimming “because of her hair”, which she said was a common reason in the black community but her manager responded, “I thought it was because of class”.

Later, when the employee became anxious about the potential expiration of her working visa she raised concerns with the manager who made a joke about her being deported.

At a subsequent appraisal, the employee advised her manager she felt she was not performing well in her role and felt ‘judged’ and was told that unless there was a performance improvement she could be dismissed.

The employee then raised a grievance in which she complained of her treatment and reported the comments which had been made regarding her potential deportation and black swimmers, but the grievance investigation ‘excused’ the managers comments and a subsequent appeal was dismissed.

However, the Employment Judge ruled that both the deportation and the swimming comments amounted to racial harassment, and the employee was awarded £20,964.

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