A Claimant complained to an Employment Tribunal that she
suffered post traumatic stress disorder and depression after being
ridiculed by co-workers in the claims department of AXA PPP
Healthcare, the medical insurance firm, where she earned
£17,765 a year.
The employment judge ordered the company to pay her aggravated
damages – including almost £25,000 for hurt
feelings – after hearing that she was subjected to an
18-month ordeal of racial bullying.
The Claimant alleged that the treatment by her colleagues left
her "unable to complete basic household tasks"
and "forced her to leave her job".
That treatment included the recording of her voice which was
then played back to her whilst her colleagues laughed and mimicked
They referred to the lady, who comes from Brazil, as SpongeBob
SquarePants, a character on the Nickelodeon cartoon channel who has
a grating nasal voice.
The root cause of the treatment she received was due her
The hearing at Ashford Employment Tribunal also heard that was
asked whether she was "on drugs" because she was
from South America.
The tribunal was also told that how colleagues called her
"lazy". One co-worker stood up on a coach during
a staff outing and spoke about "bloody
foreigners", when she was the only non-British person on
board, the tribunal heard.
The hearing was told that the abuse began after the Claimant,
who first joined the company in mid-2006, moved to the claims
department in April 2007.
The judge ruled that the Claimant had suffered the
"most serious case of discrimination" and had
been treated "less favourably on the grounds of
An aggravating factor was that the employer was found to have
"lacked empathy" and put her through a
"demeaning" grievance procedure after she
complained about the abuse.
The Claimant was awarded a total payout of just under
£142,000 including damages for discrimination, injury to
feelings, and personal injury.
The lessons to take from this case are the importance of having
a comprehensive and functioning equal opportunities policy and if
you become aware of name-calling or potentially bullying behaviour
employers should act to address it before a grievance is
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There have been several recent examples of the type of workplace 'banter' that not only results in successful discrimination claims but also leads to the kind of adverse publicity that most employers would be keen to avoid.
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