A woman will receive a payout of almost £400,000 after winning a claim for age and race discrimination against the Department for Work and Pensions.
Anne Giwa-Amu, who is of mixed Nigerian and Welsh descent, started at the DWP branch in Caerphilly as an administration officer in 2017. She was the only non-white recruit and trainee over 50 in her cohort.
Racism and bullying
Race discrimination: Employment law manual
The court heard how another DWP had used racist language such as “Paki-lover”, while another had laughed at her and told colleagues that he had “touched her bum”. Giwa-Amu was accused of stealing ice cream, and workers would spray body spray on themselves while next to her.
She went on sick leave in March 2017 and was unlawfully dismissed in October that year for being unable to return to work, according to the tribunal. Her final pay cheque had been withheld and she had been living off £55 per week, the court heard.
Judge Howden-Evans said DWP staff had deliberately created a “hostile environment” for Giwa-Amu and ordered the department to pay out more than £386,000 in compensation, including £42,800 for injury to feelings.
Giwa-Amu told BBC reporters that the court’s decision was a relief “after what has been a harrowing experience for three years”.
“I’ve had to experience real financial hardship and the perpetrators were promoted despite how they had treated me.”
The DWP said that it took the judgment “very seriously” and that racism was unacceptable. It has been ordered to contact the Equality and Human Rights Commission for diversity awareness training and its permanent secretary, Peter Schofield, must directly review her case.
But Giwa-Amu said the department was only “paying lip service to the equality legislation”.
“By protecting offenders, they are promoting a culture of racism,” she said.
Lawrence Davies from Equal Justice, her solicitor, said DWP staff had deliberately set out to “destroy the confidence and wellbeing of a black employee”.
“None of the white DWP staff have been disciplined and some have been promoted,” he said.
“Given that the DWP serves a high level of ethnic minority claimants, the presence of prejudice in the state benefits system is of grave concern.”
Diversity and inclusion opportunities on Personnel Today
Browse more Diversity and inclusion jobs
How can someone be ‘unlawfully dismissed’ if they’ve refused to work for 8 months?
She was on sick leave. Read the article
I broke my arm, company got rid of me on grounds of capability after 3 months nothing I could do,this amount for her is disgusting,she jumped on racist bandwagon.
Can’t see how they could have possibly come to that figure based on the allegations in the article. “They sprayed deodorant on themselves” oh the humanity!
It was reported that she worked for only 4 weeks and went sick in 5th week. I certainly don’t agree with the prejudice meted out but £400,000. Come on!
Really. Did you not read the high level of racist toxicity directed at this poor woman? Have some heart and empathy! What happened to the white racists who made her life a misery? Do you even really care about this woman. I think £600k would be the fairest result! And some employees to be sacked!
I understand that several of the recruits had never worked before. They probably had no idea of how to behave acceptably in the workplace, in particular the seriousness of discriminatory and harassing behaviour. I wonder if they were made aware of this before they joined the course?