The recent case of A Night Porter v A Hotel dealt with a claim of discrimination on the grounds of race, in relation to training and conditions of employment. The complainant (employee) also contended that he was harassed and victimised and subject to discriminatory dismissal for opposing discrimination.
The complainant stated that the dynamic changed on the night shift when another employee joined and thereafter he and his Polish colleagues were verbally abused and were called several abusive names and were not given the same level of shifts as Irish staff employed in the same role. The complainant said that he was also personally threatened by some of his colleagues on the night shift.
The Respondent (Hotel) claimed it did not know that this type of behaviour was taking place. It engaged the services of an external consultant and learned that a number of inappropriate behaviours were taking place at work. The Hotel manager also met with the staff in question to discuss the investigation findings and how to improve relationships at work.
The Respondent also stated that the complainant was not dismissed from his employment following a campaign of bullying and harassment but was dismissed while on probation, having received a final written warning for a violent act and persisting in aggressive behaviour despite managements efforts to address the issues he complained of and the issues raised by other staff in relation to the complainant’s behaviour.
The Workplace Relations Commission observed that the allocation of work to the Night Porters favoured the Irish staff members (slightly) and that it was the Irish staff members who had initiated the remarks that were initially described as banter but quickly became more serious and racist towards the complainant and his fellow Polish Workers.
It also looked at the law around discrimination, victimisation, harassment and vicarious liability (the fact that an employer may be legally responsible for the acts and behaviours of its employees during the course of their employment).
The Adjudicator observed
“In relation to the complaints of discrimination and harassment on the race ground, I find that these complaints are well founded. Discrimination occurs when someone is treated less favourably than another on any of the grounds provided for in the legislation. It is clear that this occurred to the complainant on the grounds of his race. The complainant was in the minority group of the night staff and was subject to racial abuse which was instigated by his Irish colleagues. This was stated in evidence by the complainant and by a witness for the complainant and was also accepted by the respondent. I note the respondent’s “bona fides” that it was not aware of the situation amongst the night staff and that it went to great lengths to resolve matters once it became aware of the situation. However, having found that the discrimination and harassment did occur, the legislation deems the employer vicariously liable for the actions of its employees”.
The Complainant was awarded 5,000 for discrimination and victimisation on the grounds of race.