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Racial harassment claim dismissed after word ‘coloured’ was used

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead & Burton
Justice

In the case of R Justin v Atlas Facilities Management a cleaner at a gym has lost his harassment claim over the use of the word ‘coloured’. Cleaner Ryan Justin became enraged after seeing a comment left by another cleaner stating “three coloured guys were messing around (i.e. play fighting and not really training)”.

The remote tribunal ruled that the term was not used “gratuitously” or with “any other negative connotations that might have disclosed prejudice”.

Judge Robert Clark ruled that older people sometimes use the word “coloured” to describe black people in the mistaken belief they are being polite.

The tribunal noted that the information came from an off-duty co-worker who was using the gym at the time and relayed the information to fellow cleaner Pell, who wrote the comment in a log book, but added it did not know why the race of these individuals was relevant.

The tribunal also heard that Justin and Pell got on well and predominantly worked night shifts together. It noted that Pell was an “older man” with “vulnerabilities” including depression and anxiety, who chose night shifts so he didn’t come into contact with many people.

Judge Clark concluded that the case did not amount to harassment as Pell’s comments were not made against Justin personally or used in the context of banter.

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