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Cath Everett

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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Racism claim upheld after pub manager calls black worker “Sooty”

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A pub manager repeatedly called a black employee “Sooty” and told him to stand under a light when she spoke to him so that she could see him, an employment tribunal has heard.

But according to the Daily Telegraph, when the staff member, Joel Perry who is of Jamaican origin, made a formal complaint about Janet Wolszczak’s behaviour on 1 December 2009, her husband and joint manager Kryn Wolszczak suspended him the next day.
 
He falsely accused Perry of helping himself to drinks at the Royal Oak pub in Gloucester that he had worked at for five months and which is part of Greene King’s Hungry Horse chain.
 
But the following month, Perry was also sacked by Greene King, while Mrs Wolszczak was only given a final written warning that referred to her racist comments as “banter”. She and her husband have subsequently been given another Hungry Horse pub to run in Bury St Edmonds, Suffolk, where the chain is based.
 
But the tribunal also heard that Mrs Wolszczak would call Perry “Sooty” and tell him to “shut up, you silly black man”. On one occasion, she asked kitchen staff: “When is Sooty back in?” but when they queried who she was referring to, she replied: “You know – the black man.”
 
Offensive behaviour
 
Perry told the tribunal: “I found this offensive. I am truly hurt and upset by this whole situation. Janet has lost my respect. I truly feel by her words that she doesn’t care. I have told her on many occasions that my name is ‘Joel’ or ‘Perry’.”
 
The tribunal found Greene King guilty of racial harrassment, direct racial discrimination and victimisation. It criticised the company’s response to the manager’s casual racism and noted that neither defendants acknowledged that what had occurred was discriminatory. It also deplored the lack of “practical steps taken to ensure such conduct did not happen again”.
 
The tribunal likewise rejected the company’s claims that Perry had stolen drinks as a “deliberate smear” and concluded that they were part of a “concerted attempt to paint the claimant in the worst possible light” without regard for the truth.
 
“We conclude Mr and Mrs Wolszczak did want to get rid of the claimant and that is why he was suspended,” it said. Therefore, his dismissal was “an act of discrimination and/or victimisation arising from the claimant’s complaint against Mrs Wolszczak”, it added.
 
Although the panel was due to determine compensation, Greene King settled the case out of court for an undisclosed sum following the judgement. But it still maintains that its response was “appropriate” and denied condoning racism.
 
“The company takes such allegations very seriously and, after a full and comprehensive investigation, appropriate action was taken against the manager,” a spokesperson said. “Complaints such as this are extremely rare within our organisation as a result of our excellent work on diversity and integration and we will continue to instil this culture of respect within our business.”
Author Profile Picture
Cath Everett

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

Read more from Cath Everett
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