Discrimination | Employee mocked over accent and labelled 'the protestant' by colleagues

Employee mocked over accent and labelled 'the protestant' by colleagues

An employee at a refugee centre in Ireland has won over £3000 in compensation after being mocked over having an English accent.

Chris Murray started working at Coolebridge, a company that controls direct provision centres and emergency accommodation facilities in Dublin, in July 2022 when he started to experience belittling and disparaging comments from other workers, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) heard.

He claims he was discriminated against on the grounds of race after colleagues consistently made fun of his English accent, called him names, and dubbed him “the Protestant”. This name-calling became a running joke amongst members of staff at the centre, who would repeatedly ask what he was doing in the largely Catholic area.

Murray says he explained to colleagues that despite being an Irish national, he has an English accent because of his upbringing. He claims that because of this name calling, he feels his national identity was being denied and that another identity was being imposed on him by co-workers.

The mocking also included signs on walls and office notices, the WRC heard. However, when Murray raised the grievance with his line manager, the matter was not properly addressed, and he was instead told “not to take offense” - the teasing lasted until the end of his employment in May 2023.

The WRC adjudication officer on the case said that Murray was treated less favourably than his co-workers due to his race as colleagues attempted to “strip him of his identity”. WRC also ruled that Coolebridge had failed in their duty to properly address the issue once Murray had reported it.

The WRC ruled that Murray was entitled to €3,500 (£3053) in compensation.

Failing to address grievances

Challenges, such as grievances, must be dealt with effectively, and promptly, by HR leaders, to ensure fairness and consistency. Therefore, there should be rigid procedures around grievances that aim to support employees and employers.

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According to the CIPD website, a main reason for having grievance procedures is to resolve issues of concern without the need of a costly employment tribunal. It’s therefore in the best interest of everyone that grievances are taken seriously and addressed appropriately.

The CIPD website explains: “Employers should have clear individual dispute resolution procedures that are communicated to all staff. Line managers and any employees involved in managing disciplinary and grievance matters should be properly trained in the organisation’s policies and procedures and know how to implement them. All disputes should be handled in a fair and consistent way across the organisation.”

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