Equality and discrimination awareness should always be high placed on an employer’s agenda. This has been reinforced in a recent case, where the employment tribunal heard that an Asian food manufacturer had discriminated against a British employee on the grounds of race.

The claimant, Colin Sorby, had been subject to discriminatory comments from his supervisor at Mumtaz Foods, as well as unfair treatment by management.

The case

In October 2019, Mr Sorby was working as a production operative on a zero-hours contract. During a shift, he was pulled aside unexpectedly by his supervisor, who stated that “this is an Asian company” and Mr Sorby should “go and work for an English company”.

Mr Sorby responded by complaining to his HR department, suggesting that the supervisor had stereotypically assumed that he could not cook Asian food properly.

At this stage, it would be reasonable to expect that a thorough investigation was conducted into the comments, with action taken against the supervisor if deemed necessary. Instead, Mr Sorby alleged that this did not occur, with the HR manager subjecting him to further discriminatory treatment.

Being a zero-hour employee, Mr Sorby suddenly found that his shifts at Mumtaz Foods were beginning to dry up. He was then advised by management that he should look for another job, as he would not be offered any further work.

Initially, it was suggested that these comments were solely motivated by the performance of Mr Sorby, however this was not found to be true in the tribunal.

The judge ruled that the comments made by management at Mumtaz Foods were neither trivial nor unintended. As a result, it was found that the intention was to try and persuade Mr Sorby to leave the company. The tribunal was also satisfied that Mr Sorby’s original claims against his supervisor were true and of a discriminatory nature.

What does this mean for employers?

Cases such as this raise several questions about the company’s approach to equality and discrimination awareness. Interestingly, the judge found that Mumtaz Foods could present no evidence of its employees being engaged in any form of equality and diversity training.

An employment tribunal claim is an expensive and time-consuming process that can cause significant damage to reputation, as outlined in this article. Therefore, AHR Consultants strongly advise that companies do everything they can to avoid these situations, starting with essential training in equality and discrimination awareness.

By engaging with employees in this area, businesses can expect to minimise the risk of an incident occurring, whilst giving themselves a layer of defence if they do happen. Through our HR retainer packages, we offer an extensive range of on-site training courses, as well as legal protection with our Employer Defence service.

In the case of Sorby versus Mumtaz Foods, there was no minimum length of service required to bring the claim against the company. Therefore, it is crucial that businesses take note of this and ensure that comprehensive protection is secured in all circumstances.  

Call us on 0345 076 2288 or send us an email to discuss our training courses and HR retainer packages.