A casino employee has lost an age and racial discrimination case after being told to “grow up” by a colleague during an argument and referred to as a "black girl" when she fell over.
Merona Marcello Mariotti, a waitress at the Leicester Square casino Hippodrome, told a judge that the casino’s bar supervisor, Maria Krasovska, had told her to “grow up” and asked her to "not quarrel with a younger waitress" after an argument broke out between the two.
Mariotti claims she was told by Krasovska “not to expect the youngsters to do the work”, but Krasovska says this was a ‘misinterpretation’ of her words.
Yet, the judge on the employment tribunal said the “grow up” remark indicated that Krasovska thought Mariotti had “behaved in an immature way and should have been more retrained’, and that this remark was not “less favourable treatment because of age”.
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Mariotti, who is a black woman of Italian-Eritrean descent, also claimed racial discrimination as in a scenario where she fell over and injured her wrist, Krasovska called out to get help saying: “the black girl fell down”.
However, the tribunal decided that this was not racial discrimination as Krasovska “supervised around 200 staff” and “may well not have been able to remember” Mariotti’s name “in the middle of a nightshift and used 'black girl' as a way of identifying who needed help”.
The waitress also claimed unfair treatment due to age and racial discrimination as she could only have a 30-minute break in a 10-hour shift, compared to her colleagues who smoke, who were allowed ten to 15 cigarette breaks in a day.
However, the tribunal also dismissed these claims as there was evidence that Mariotti was entitled to two extra 15-minute breaks, if she wished.
“We concluded that not asking for breaks was why she didn’t get them”
Using considerate language at work
Although Mariotti did not win her case, this situation highlights the need for employers and management to be aware of themselves using ill-considered or inappropriate terminology and language in the workplace. If not, there could be a risk of wasting time, effort, and potentially money.
Jim Moore, employee relations expert at HR consultants Hamilton Nash, said: “Based on the evidence available, the employee in this case probably deserved to lose the case as the complaints were not well founded.
“Being told to 'grow up' is typically a rebuke for immature behaviour rather than a reference to the claimant's biological age.
“There was also no evidence that the ‘the black girl fell down’ comment indicated a discriminatory attitude from the supervisor. It also seems that Ms Mariotti did not suffer any disadvantage in the treatment for her injury.
“What we can see from this case is how the use of ill-considered or intemperate language can create the opportunity for a complaint to arise.
“It's very easy to use phrasing that might not be tactful or professional in the heat of the moment, but the impact can be significant.
“Even though the claimant did not prevail in this case, there will have been significant costs in terms of time, money and stress on the employer, HR and supervisors from having to defend this claim.
“These costs might have been avoided if more carefully chosen wording was used. Employers would be wise to frequently remind their staff of what language is acceptable in the workplace.”