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Employer must pay $75,000 in settlement to racially abused worker

Imagine your workers are taunting an African worker for being black.

They make monkey noises at him, leave bananas on his desk, tell him he isn’t Australian, suggest he is part of an ‘African gang’ and a terrorist and leave notes on his desk with links to white supremacist websites.

What would you do?

When a Kenyan-born worker complained about receiving this exact abuse to his employer in Melbourne, they thought they didn’t have to do anything.

Big mistake.

While the storeman didn’t have the money to ‘lawyer up’, he approached Clayton Utz where they took on his case on a pro bono basis.

Clayton Utz partners David Hillard and Jessica Morath said that the employer was “unwilling and incapable” of dealing with the worker’s complaints.

“Our client toughed all of this out, because he needed a job, but it had an increasing toll on his mental health. Eventually he was diagnosed with depression, was under the care of a psychiatrist, and was unable to go to work.”

The law firm’s workplace relations, employment and safety team in Melbourne brought proceedings before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT), under the State Equal Opportunity Act 2010 and Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001.

The matter was resolved at reconciliation, where the employer paid the worker $75,000 in general damages, plus an additional four weeks’ wages. They also gave him an apology.

However, the worker may still claim further damages.

“Our client has now left the employer, but our resolution permits him to continue separate workers compensation proceedings for the wages he lost from being unable to go to work due to his psychiatric injury,” Mr Hillard and Ms Morath said.

“What happened to our client was truly awful. Hopefully this outcome has given him a sense of justice and will help him to start afresh, at an employer where racism is not part of the work environment.”

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