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Waitress wins race harassment claim after manager tried to remove her wig

In the case of Ms A V v Mr S A  Ms A V was the only worker at a restaurant who was biracial and of Black African heritage. She began working in October 2021 while she was a university student. Many of the staff were from Arabic background, the tribunal heard, and even the boss’ wife, gossiped about Ms A V’s hair in Arabic despite having had a “good relationship” with her.

In the case of Ms A V v Mr S A  Ms A V was the only worker at a restaurant who was biracial and of Black African heritage. She began working in October 2021 while she was a university student. Many of the staff were from Arabic background, the tribunal heard, and even the boss’ wife, gossiped about Ms A V’s hair in Arabic despite having had a “good relationship” with her.

A tribunal report said: “Early in the evening, Ms A V was standing behind the bar, cleaning glasses. RM and SA were there. They were chatting to each other in Arabic. RM turned to Ms A V and said to her (in English) words along the lines of ‘we were just gossiping about your hair and whether or not it’s real’.”

When Ms A V said she was wearing a wig it caused ‘shock’ and moments later Mr S A said to her: “Oh, you’re wearing a wig? Why are you wearing a wig?” “Flustered and deeply uncomfortable” Ms A V explained she was protecting her real hair, which was braided underneath. Mr S A hit back: “Oh? Take it off!”

“Embarrassed” Ms V A moved away but the following day Mr S A repeated his request. The report said: ” Ms V A went downstairs to get her belongings from the security room. She came back up with her things and was heading towards the door. Mr S A was standing in front of the door, blocking it. As she tried to pass him out the door, he stopped her and said words to the effect of ‘no one’s here. Take off your wig’.

“She took a step back from him as he then tried to reach over and grab the wig and pull it off her head. He was smiling. He grabbed strands on the top and pulled. She held on to the wig and tried to adjust it to cover her hair. She moved backwards from him, saying words like ‘no, no, I don’t want to. It’s stuck on!’ Ms V A was distressed. She felt humiliated and that her personal boundaries had been violated.”

Miss V A resigned days later. She told the tribunal as a result of the ordeal she stopped wearing wigs and became so anxious she stopped socialising.

Judge Murphy ruled the incidents amounted to racial harassment and said “We could reasonably and properly infer from the facts shown, that the intense curiosity and repeated requests to be shown what was under her wig related to Miss Vial’s biracial background with black African heritage and her disclosure at the time that her hair underneath was braided, a typical style for black afro hair.

“Mr S A was the claimant’s boss. RM was her floor manager. They were both in a position of authority and power over Ms V A. Their conduct demonstrated a salacious interest in her personal appearance which was wholly inappropriate.

Ms V A was awarded £16,753.13.

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