Joanne Stronach looks at the detail in a recently published Employment Tribunal case of Besz v Multi Packaging Solutions Ltd which shows a different impact of the Brexit vote for those EU nationals also affected by it.
Mr Besz, a Polish national, was employed by the Company as a Warehouse Operative from August 2011 to July 2016 when he was summarily dismissed. His line manager was Mr Victory. The Claimant, along with another claims, made 6 allegations of race discrimination and harassment related to race. The main ones were:
• Whilst the Claimant was away in Poland, Mr Victory said in the presence of Mr Besz’s work colleagues, “I hope it’s a one way ticket”;
• During a discussion about Brexit, Mr Victory said “after Brexit I will vote to send you back to Poland”;
• When purporting to read a note written by the Claimant, Mr Victory said “I don’t understand Dick language”;
• Mr Victory said to the Claimant that the Claimant “did not understand English” and so “did not know how to use a computer”;
The Tribunal found that there was a culture of “prank playing” and low level bullying on the shop floor. This behaviour was unnoticed or being ignored by the management and there was no evidence at the Tribunal that the Company was or had intervened to stop it.
Mr Besz expressed an interest in a supervisor/team leader position into which Mr Victory could choose to appoint. He told Mr Besz that he was wasting his time and he would be better off putting his application in the bin.
When the Claimant made a suggestion that the lorry drivers could help by opening their trailer curtains so the Warehouse Operatives could get straight to work, Mr Victory reacted in a hostile and sarcastic manner. He asked the transport manager to publically demonstrate to the Claimant how to open trailer curtains, despite the Claimant having done this task for 4 years which was humiliating for the Claimant.
The Tribunal also found that Mr Besz was given a minimal amount of overtime compared to others despite his requests.
The Claimant’s claims for direct race discrimination and harassment related to race succeeded and compensation is to be decided at a later date.
This case shows that one serious side effect of Brexit is that employees have felt more able to discuss their views on migrant workers publically at work in a discriminatory manner. Employers need to keep a close eye out for any such behaviour, especially as we get closer to the UK’s exit date, and deal with it seriously and without delay.
For advice and assistance on discrimination or bullying grievances, investigations or claims please contact Joanne Stronach, Head of Employment and HR, on 01228 516666 or firstname.lastname@example.org