Nigerian man who was told he ‘looks like a chimpanzee’ by team leader loses race discrimination case against employer
Recruitment agency deemed to have taken appropriate action in aftermath of incidents being reported
A sign at the Workplace Relations Commission in Dublin.
November 16 2020 10:25 PM
A NIGERIAN man who was racially abused at work in Ireland, where a colleague is alleged to have imitated the sounds of a monkey and told him he “looks like a chimpanzee”, has lost his race discrimination case against his employer.
At the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), adjudication officer Maire Mulcahy found the statements allegedly made by the work colleague against Victor Kings Oluebube “are indicative of a reprehensible mindset and undoubtedly constitute harassment on the grounds of race”.
Ms Mulcahy said: “The comment could not be other than degrading, hostile and humiliating.”
However, Ms Mulcahy found that Mr Oluebube’s claim for discrimination against his employer, CPL Solutions Ltd, on the grounds of race failed.
She found that CPL Solutions Ltd was able to avail of a defence under the Employment Equality Acts by showing that it took steps to reverse the effects of the harassment and to prevent a recurrence.
As a result, she said the company did not harass Mr Oluebube on the race grounds in contravention of the Employment Equality Acts.
Mr Oluebube worked as a warehouse operative and alleged at the WRC that, in February 2019, the warehouse team leader imitated the sounds of a monkey in front of him and his colleagues.
The team leader told Mr Oluebube that he ”looked like a chimpanzee”.
Mr Oluebube told the WRC that he found the remarks “to be highly degrading and humiliating but hoped it would be a one-off remark”. He did not make a complaint about this incident.
However, three months later, on May 21, 2019, when Mr Oluebube was two minutes late returning from his break, the warehouse team leader is alleged to have told him “you look like a chimpanzee”.
Thirty minutes later, the team leader apologised to Mr Oluebube and said he did not mean to be racist.
He asked the complainant to “let it rest here” and that “he had black friends”.
Mr Oluebube’s colleagues encouraged him to report the incident and he reported what was said to the warehouse manager the following day.
The recruitment agency, CPL Solutions trading as Flexsource Recruitment, denied the charge of discrimination and stated that it deplores any affront to Mr Oluebube.
CPL Solutions said the only incident brought to its attention was the one which happened on May 21 of last year.
It said it encouraged Mr Oluebube to make a formal complaint in the face of his initial, stated desire to make an informal complaint.
A manager met with the perpetrator and stated that he had apologised to Mr Oluebube and did so again, profusely.
CPL stated that it acted promptly and investigated the matter.
It said the perpetrator admitted to the statements as reported by Mr Oluebube.
CPL also said the perpetrator was given a final written warning which is one step short of dismissal.
The recruitment agency said it took measures to prevent a recurrence of such harassment and training was provided to the perpetrator in addition to the final written warning.
CPL said it has robust policies in place protecting an employee’s right to work in in an atmosphere free of harassment and discrimination.