RACE CLAIM Cleaner loses racial harassment claim as judge finds older colleague used term ‘coloured’ in ‘attempt to be polite’
A CLEANER lost his racial harassment claim after a judge found an older colleague used the term "coloured" in an attempt to be "polite".
Ryan Justin launched a harassment claim after one of his colleagues used the word.
Mr Justin, who is black and worked for Atlas Limited providing services to Pure Gym in Derby, saw a message from fellow cleaner Markham Pell stating "three coloured guys were messing around", a tribunal heard.
Mr Pell, who is white, wrote the note after an incident a couple of days earlier when three men were misbehaving in the gym.
Mr Justin "took exception" to the use of the term and added his own "Not coloured" comment to the note, the tribunal was told.
Three nights later, he confronted Mr Pell "in the spirit of education" to explain why black people would be offended by its use.
Mr Pell immediately apologised and said he didn't mean it to be "nasty or upsetting" and he genuinely hadn't meant to be racist.
He claimed he had been worried about using the word "black" to describe the men as he thought that was itself offensive and so he decided to use the word 'coloured' instead.
He said the men had actually been of South Asian ethnicity and he had been unsure how to describe them in his note.
Mr Justin stormed out of the gym and later sent an email telling his boss he resigned because he would "rather walk out than get into any conflict".
Employment Judge Robert Clark said the 'older' Mr Pell was "a particularly naive and timid" individual who described himself as "being raised in an old fashioned household".
He said: "[We found] Ironically, that he had chosen this word in the misplaced belief it was more appropriate, albeit he subsequently realised and accepts it could cause offence…
"We accept he will go some way to avoid confrontation if he can.
"His own life experiences are such that he is aware of the need to be culturally sensitive and is conscious of not inadvertently offending others, not least because that could itself be the source of the conflict he otherwise tries to avoid."
[We found] Ironically, that he had chosen this word in the misplaced belief it was more appropriate, albeit he subsequently realised and accepts it could cause offence
Employment Judge Robert Clark
He added: "Wrongly, [Mr Pell] now understands, he had been anxious about describing anyone as 'black' as he perceived that could be offensive generally.
"His restricted vocabulary was compounded further when trying to describe individuals from an Asian background as black."
In his witness statement to the tribunal, Mr Justin said: "Black people have had to put up with offensive name tags or described with offensive racist slurs for many years.
"However, times have changed and this should not be accepted or considered OK in this current time.
"The guilty parties should be made to learn what effect this has had on individuals and communities.”
Giving his conclusion, Judge Clark said: "We agree entirely with that sentiment. Nothing we have concluded should suggest otherwise.
"The fact that this outdated language was once used descriptively by people who genuinely felt it to be a polite term, is only so because of the less polite alternatives that existed in that past era.
"We accept white people of a certain age who perhaps have not had much opportunity to benefit from multi-cultural acquaintances in their day to day lives may draw on this outdated language in the mistaken belief it is polite and genuinely descriptive.
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"The same may be said of younger people who have grown up in such households. That seems to apply to Mr Pell who, we accept, appears otherwise to try to conduct himself in life in an inclusive manner."
The tribunal ruled that Mr Justin's approach to Mr Pell was "confrontational" and Mr Pell had been trying to apologise.
Mr Justin's claims of harassment both failed and they were dismissed.