After escaping the civil war in Somalia, Mr Fasial Abdi moved to the UK in 2011. In December 2013 Mr Abdi, was contracted by a third-party company (T C Facilities Management Ltd) as a cleaner for Nationwide Building Society.  In July 2020, Mr Abdi was suspended and subjected to a disciplinary after being accused of a fraudulent claim over logging his shift.

Immediately prior to this, he had been involved in a heated conversation with a co-worker who referred to him as a ‘lazy cheeky monkey’. Notwithstanding the use of this racial slur, the co-worker also remarked on his appearance, that he looked like a ‘Golliwog’ and commented on the company’s attitude towards him, for example stating: ‘they want to get rid of you’, ‘they want to kick you out;, ‘they are after you’, ‘the company is targeting you’; . 

The hostility, verbal abuse and use of racist language left Mr Abdi traumatised and he claimed unfair dismissal, harassment related to race and direct race discrimination. Consequently, the Tribunal confirmed that Mr Abdi had been unfairly dismissed and had been the victim of harassment. The Tribunal will decide the amount of compensation to be award at a later date.  

It is important to note that the two Operations Managers conducting the grievance were under the impression that the negative term ‘cheeky monkey’ could have been a term of an endearment, with one manager stating that whilst the phrase could have negative racial connotations, it was dependant on its context. During the Tribunal proceedings,  one of the managers,  was unable to comment on why the context had not been considered  i.e. a white employee to a black employee during a disagreement at work, and accepted that it could have negative racial tones which would be a serious allegation of race discrimination

In the same light, neither manager had any experience or training in handling complaints in respect of discrimination nor had they conducted a grievance investigation before. The Tribunal also highlighted that the company had no equal opportunities policies available for staff and no policy in place in relation to grievance complaints.

For an employer, it is important to have effective measures and policies in place, working alongside their HR department. Our Employment team at Teacher Stern can provide HR departments and managers with the necessary support and training when managing grievance investigations and ensuring the appropriate policies are in place.