A worker who was called an ‘old white man’ by a colleague, whose comments eventually led to him being signed off work with depression, has won his claim for race and age discrimination at an employment tribunal.
Mr Moore was awarded more than £22,000 in compensation after he suffered a barrage of abuse from his colleague Mr Owusu during his time working at Sean Pong Tyres in Rotherham.
Moore claimed he was called “old white man”, “gay white man” and was told he was lazy and too old to do his job, which was often physically demanding and involved unloading and grading tyres for export.
An employment tribunal in Leeds heard that the team was small and three of the workers – including company owner Mr Frimpong – were of Ghanaian decent and regularly spoke in a language not spoken by Moore.
Frimpong told the tribunal that Owusu regularly used bad language when speaking to Moore, but only in response to similar bad language directed at him by Moore. He dismissed much of this behaviour as “banter” and claimed that Owusu had never used racist language towards Moore.
Moore said that he found the language intimidating. He sent a written complaint to Frimpong in January 2021, stating: “Since [Owusu] started at the company he has done nothing but single me out and slurring abuse at me causing a lot of stress and sleepless nights. This letter is a last resort for me and in hopes [SIC] you are able to resolve this matter.”
In his evidence to the tribunal, Frimpong suggested that Moore’s complaint was an attempt to manufacture a legal claim against the company.
The tribunal found that Owusu’s behaviour “tipped over at some point into hostility”, and that the employer was liable for it.
“He may not have appreciated the effect he was having on Mr Moore but in our view it did create a hostile and intimidating working environment and amounted to bullying and harassment,” the judgment says.
“We are also satisfied that that harassment was related to race and age since this was expressly stated.”
It dismissed a complaint of discrimination of the basis of sexual orientation, made in relation to incorrect comments about Moore being gay. The tribunal said that this was “just the odd remark” and did not meet the threshold for harassment.
On 1 February 2021 Moore left work early with no explanation. Later that day he sent text messages to Frimpong that stated he had some blood tests and an MRI scan, which suggested he had had a panic attack or a suspected heart attack. He was later signed off work with depression.
On 3 March, Moore emailed Frimpong about his health problems, which by this point included pain down the right side of his neck and arm. Frimpong responded: “if you are not coming again could you please be straight and tell me thanks”.
The tribunal found this message indicated that “no real concern” for Moore’s health was shown by the company.
Moore resigned from the company in April 2021, stating: “The situation has gotten so bad causing me many days of stress, upset, and sleepless nights and loss of appetite. This situation has also affected my mental health and gave me no choice but to seek medical help.”
Since Moore suffered discrimination, the tribunal found that he had been entitled to resign and make a claim of constructive and unfair dismissal.
“Even if we are wrong on that point, and it was not unlawful harassment, the conduct was certainly a breach of the duty of trust and confidence. That is shown most clearly by the effect it had on Mr Moore, the terms of his complaint, his resignation letter and the fact that he was then signed off sick with depression for several months,” the judgment says.
The judge ordered the company to pay Moore a total of £22,027.21 in compensation, including awards for unfair dismissal, discrimination and interest.