An Asda worker has been awarded £30,000 at an employment tribunal after being kicked in the rear and “humiliated” by a female colleague.
Choon Seng Goh, the supermarket employee, will receive the five-figure sum after a judge had previously ruled Asda had discriminated against the worker on the grounds of his gender, as the supermarket hadn’t taken his bullying claims seriously.
At a tribunal held in summer 2023, Goh stated that a man would have been “sacked on the spot” if they experienced the same thing as him, having been kicked and kneed twice by a female colleague.
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The tribunal revealed that the perpetrator Mercy Asante kicked him in the rear, but Goh hadn’t reported the incident, believing it wouldn’t happen again.
However, just week later Asante did kick Goh in the backside again, so much that he “jolted forward” and needed to visit his doctor. After this, Goh made a complaint to his manager but “nothing was done” for several months, making him feel like his complaint wasn’t being taken seriously and the whole situation would have been dealt with faster “had he not been male”.
Despite Asante claiming the two had a “playful” relationship and that Asante had mentioned she was going to "Kung Fu him". Nevertheless, Goh persisted that his treatment wasn’t a result of “banter” and instead was harassment. Asda rejected this appeal which urged Goh to take the supermarket to court.
The employment judge on the case stated: “This was not simply an unjustified sense of grievance, Mr Goh was entitled to feel that his welfare and safety were not being accorded any significance by his employer."
“Ruling the grievance had been 'mismanaged', he added: "There was no proper attempt to grapple with the core part of his complaint, namely, that had he been a woman his complaints would have been dealt with differently.
"We conclude that the appeal hearing and its outcome was mismanaged. The focus was not on addressing his complaints... the outcome was significantly flawed in that it did not address a crucial element of the complaint."
The tribunal awarded Goh £29,465 compensation, including £18,500 for injury to feelings.
'Banter' in the workplace and what HR can do about it
Harassment in the workplace can often be masqueraded as ‘banter’. There might be a genuine misunderstanding between colleagues about what is an acceptable way to treat each other, but sometimes there will be intentional bullying being disguised as ‘banter’. So, it’s important for HR practitioners to look out for the often subtle and nuanced differences in these various interactions.
Lisa Coleman, Senior Associate at GQ|Littler, previously told HR Grapevine: “Whilst humour in the workplace should be encouraged, employers should be taking active steps to foster a respectful and inclusive environment with clear boundaries.”
“It is often the case that what one person finds funny another might find offensive. However, to try and stay on the right side of the line, people should be mindful to keep jokes to those they are comfortable repeating and explaining if questioned about them, and avoid those which cross into offensive territory, especially those which relate to protected characteristics.”