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Employee awarded compensation for boss’ ‘bad joke’

A talented employee who had worked at BT Openreach for several years has been awarded over £20,000 compensation following a deeply insensitive ‘joke’ made by her boss along with other racially motivated comments.

Ms Alexandre who is originally from the US, said she was left ‘deeply distressed’ when her manager ‘joked’ that she could get ‘deported’ if her visa extension was not granted on time.

Ms Alexandre started to become anxious as the expiry date on her visa grew close. She had asked the manager Mr Warner to raise the issue with senior managers as she was worried the paperwork would not be done in time. It was at this point Mr Warner ‘joked’ about her being deported.

The same manager also ‘shocked Ms Alexandre and a fellow black colleague on another occasion by suggesting there were not many black swimmers ‘because of class’.  This was part of a conversation during a work trip when Ms Alexandre told colleagues she could not swim and did not like it because of her hair. It was during a dinner conversation that the issue of swimmers and class was raised by Mr Warner.

An employment tribunal ruled that Ms Alexandre was racially harassed by her manager Mr Warner who denied making the comments and claimed he was quoting from a tweet about NFL players, top-level swimmers and underprivileged backgrounds.

Ms Alexandre has been awarded £20,964 compensation and in comments the Judge said the tribunal accepted Ms Alexandre’s evidence that she found the ‘joke’ about deportation deeply distressing and utterly humiliating.  The Judge went on to say, “The visa process had already caused her a great deal of stress and anxiety as everything that she had built in the UK hung in the balance.”

This is yet another example of where businesses can be let down by individual managers and where better education and training and clear workplace policies are needed to prevent these situations from happening. If you would like to discuss updating your workplace policies and procedures, get in touch with our team today.