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Black receptionist wins race discrimination claim after afro comments

In the case of Phillips v Ballymore Construction Services Ltd Ms D Phillips was employed as an Office receptionist/administrator for a construction services company. She was one of two black employees within the team employed during her employment. There were 2 employees of Indian origin and several European employees. Ms Phillips said she did not get much of an on-boarding process in comparison to 2 male American interns. She felt it had been more inclusive for them and more welcoming.

In the case of Phillips v Ballymore Construction Services Ltd Ms D Phillips was employed as an Office receptionist/administrator for a construction services company. She was one of two black employees within the team employed during her employment. There were 2 employees of Indian origin and several European employees. Ms Phillips said she did not get much of an on-boarding process in comparison to 2 male American interns. She felt it had been more inclusive for them and more welcoming.

Six months into her new job, Miss Phillips sent an email to bosses complaining about racist remarks after she was twice subjected to the ‘offensive’ remark that her afro was the result of an electric shock. A tribunal report said: ‘The comments were similar and remarked about what electrical sockets Miss Phillips had touched to make her hair like that. Miss Phillips has an afro and the tribunal found these comments were made when she had her hair untied and open.’

In the same email Miss Phillips also complained to bosses about a Spanish employee using the ‘N-word’ seven times in the context of asking her, ‘I have heard it is wrong to use the N-word’. On this matter, the judge ruled Ms Perez’s comments to be ‘inquisitive’ and ‘naive’ as a non-native English speaker, rather than deliberately offensive.

The south London tribunal heard Miss Phillips advised bosses the team could benefit from ‘diversity training’ because of the incidents she had raised. She later sent another email to bosses, complaining her concerns were not being ‘addressed properly’ and raising additional concerns such as ‘being blamed for IT errors’ and ‘being accused of being aggressive’.

She raised a grievance which was dismissed, apart from one aspect relating to one of the afro comments – which was deemed ‘indirectly discriminatory’. Miss Phillips resigned in January 2019. Miss Phillips won her claims of race discrimination relating to the remarks about her hair.

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