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Ukrainian Asda worker wins racial harassment claim

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead & Burton

In Mrs S Henderson v Asda Stores Ltd Mrs S Henderson, an Asda employee of 15 years, took the company to an employment tribunal, winning one count of racial harassment and one of constructive unfair dismissal.

The loyal Asda worker was threatened, denied breaks, not included in team huddles, subjected to ‘nasty’ comments, and left to work in cold chillers for more than five hours. A judge found that section leader at the Asda store, Mark Bates, viewed her as an ‘easy target’ as ‘he knew she was Ukrainian and that her cultural work ethic made her subservient to her managers’.

Section leader Fozia Khan, who shouted at Mrs Henderson for wearing black shoes with pink soles, decided to pick on her rather than English colleagues who breached the dress code because she knew she wouldn’t resist it.

Mrs Henderson suffered mental health issues as a result of the harassment and ‘has lost her confidence and is now in a vulnerable position’.

On the day she resigned on the spot in tears, Mrs Henderson claimed Mr Bates had been “abusive and aggressive” towards her, looking at his watch and making sarcastic comments about how long she took on a break and critical comments about her performance.

Mrs Henderson got upset and went to the toilet before leaving the store to write a resignation letter in her car and to hand in. The letter said she was unhappy with management and the way she was spoken to, leaving her ‘unable and unwilling’ to continue in the job.

Asda refuted Mrs Henderson’s claims, saying she confirmed that any complains were resolved to her satisfaction. The company also said Mrs Henderson took breaks that were too long leaving staff in a place to discuss this with her.

But Employment Judge Ainscough ruled on May 8 Mrs Henderson was spoken to by Mr Bates in a “condescending and critical manner” over the whereabouts of her during a shift at the Accrington store.

He said that Mr Bates “is likely to have been aggressive, as on previous occasions he had invaded [her] body space, raised his voice and singled [her] out”.

Mrs Henderson was awarded £63,000.

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