Settlement Agreements and Racial Harassment

Settlement agreements and workplace disputes can arise from all manner of scenarios and require discussion of difficult subjects. One such case was recently heard in the Tribunal. The Claimant was a bar supervisor. He brought a claim for racial harassment against his employer based on comments that his manager had made at a staff briefing.

The Claimant was the only black team member at the meeting. At the meeting the staff were given promotional hats for St Patrick’s day. There were some jokes made about how people looked in the hats. Some of the comments made were “you look sexy” and “you look like Robin Hood”. However, the Claimant was made to feel very uncomfortable by a comment made by his manager who said that the Claimant looked “like a pimp”. The Claimant raised a grievance as he said that this comment undermined his authority among his staff however his grievance was not upheld. He brought a claim in the Tribunal.

The Judge had to determine whether the word “pimp” had racial connotations. The Defendant employer argued that it was just a harmless joke much like the other comments that were made but the Claimant felt that the word was associated with black men in popular culture. During the hearing, the Defendant produced image search results for the word pimp to try and demonstrate that it did not only show black men but the Judge was not convinced as there were a high percentage of black men in relation to the UK demographic. The Judge also noted that there was an image of Barack Obama as a pimp, but no similar images of white leaders.

The Tribunal ruled in favour of the Claimant. It was noted that the manager may have made the comment based on a subconscious associate but nonetheless the comment was in bad taste and did undermine the Claimant’s position as a supervisor.

Tribunal proceedings can be uncomfortable and distressing for a Claimant bringing a harassment or discrimination claim. Whether it be race, religion, sex, disability or any of the other protected characteristics, it always worth considering settling any dispute via some form of Settlement Agreement.

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