24 August 2011 #Employment
The employee, Adrian Ruda who was from Poland, worked at an engineering company in Wakefield in 2007. In 2010 he brought a number of claims against the company, including race discrimination and sexual orientation discrimination. The basis of his race claim was that the nickname given to him by his colleagues of "Borat", a character from Kazakhstan created by Sacha Baron Cohen of Ali G fame, was less favourable treatment because of his nationality.
The Leeds Employment Tribunal rejected the majority of his complaints, finding that the Claimant was "less than persuasive and less than honest". They did however uphold his complaint that the nickname was racially discriminatory. This, according to the Tribunal, amounted to racial harassment as it created a degrading and humiliating working environment for him. This was despite the Claimant not raising any complaint in 2007 when the nickname was used, and even replying to his colleagues with Borat`s catchphrase "I love you".
The Tribunal also held the nickname was direct discrimination because "someone who had all the characteristics of Mr Ruda but was neither from Poland nor perceived to be of Eastern European origin would not have had the nickname applied to him."
The Tribunal also upheld his sexual orientation discrimination claim after finding that Mr Ruda had been called "gay" by a colleague.
Although he had brought his claims 3 years after the expiry of the 3 month time limit, the Tribunal found that it was just and equitable to allow his claim to proceed as he was unfamiliar with the British Tribunal system.
Mr Ruda was awarded £2,250 in compensation for the injury to his feelings caused by the discrimination. The Tribunal also recommended that the employer implement an anti discrimination, harassment and bullying policy and train staff to ensure that they are aware that such conduct is not acceptable.
There has been direct criticism of the ruling from a number of sources, including the Guardian whose report on the story is titled "Borat `racism` case reflects badly on employment tribunals". However the case is a reminder to employers that they must have effective anti bullying and harassment and equal opportunities policies in place and ensure that these are enforced. In particular it should be made clear to staff that giving a colleague a nickname based on his or her nationality is likely to be discriminatory conduct and disciplinary action may be taken against them.
Buddy has and equal opportunities policy and anti harassment policy available to full members in the discrimination section of HR Resources available by clicking here. There are also checklists on dealing with harassment, useful guidance notes and other resources available here. Free members and those just browsing the site of finding us through Google searches can sign up to become full members by purchasing an annual membership with access to all of the Buddy documents for just £1 a day by entering the Buddy shop.