Belfast Telegraph

Polish chef awarded £15k in job bias case tells of heartache over racist abuse at Northern Ireland restaurant

Damian Anysz at his home in Magherafelt
Damian Anysz at his home in Magherafelt
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

A chef from Poland awarded £15,000 after being racially abused by staff at a Magherafelt restaurant has told of the "very bad atmosphere" he experienced.

The Belfast Telegraph revealed last week how Damian Anysz received the payout after taking a case to an industrial tribunal against the now insolvent Sizzlers restaurant, where he worked as a commis chef between November 2016 and July 2018.

The abuse started in May 2017 when long-standing staff member June Fullerton told him: "You should go back to your own f****** country."

Speaking about his experience, Mr Anysz said: "I enjoyed my work at Sizzlers initially. It was going well for the first six months, and then one day I offered help to a co-worker, June Fullerton, and she told me very rudely I should go back to my own country.

"Over the next few months, she kept up the abuse - all because she didn't like that I am Polish and came here to work and live.

"There were also incidents like spilling things, deliberately bumping into me and closing my arm in the fridge door.

"There was a very bad atmosphere in work, a lot of whispering behind my back and I did think about resigning."

Although he complained to management at the time, he said he wasn't believed until another member of staff confirmed his story.

Ms Fullerton was suspended on full pay in November 2017 and was invited to a formal disciplinary meeting about the incident.

She was reinstated the next month with no notice or explanation to Mr Anysz. The employment tribunal found this was not an omission, "but part of a deliberate course of action" that allowed the behaviour to continue, albeit in a lesser form.

Mr Anysz had also told the tribunal he never received a copy of his contract of employment, despite repeated requests, and spoke of poor workplace relations.

"The final straw was when I came back to work after my wedding in Poland in June 2018 and my colleagues were not speaking to me at all," he said.

"I felt that the only reason I was being treated this way was because I am Polish. I resigned in July 2018 because of the whole string of events, the bad language, the jostling and unpleasant incidents in the kitchen and the different treatment of me compared to the local staff. And through it all, I felt I was regarded as the problem."

He continued: "It was hard having to talk about all this to the tribunal. I am very glad it is all over and that I had the help of the Equality Commission."

He was awarded just over £15,000 by the industrial tribunal, £14,000 of which was for injury to his feelings.

Equality Commission chief commissioner Dr Michael Wardlow said: "Damian came to Northern Ireland to work and he was prepared to work hard.

"As the tribunal found, he was subjected to demeaning and undermining abuse and a whispering campaign aimed at isolating him from his colleagues."

The judgment read that a once welcoming environment became one "where he felt that he was at the mercy of the mood of another member of staff".

It said this was "permitted and compounded" by the respondents by failing to address the original misconduct by Ms Fullerton, which enabled her to "repeat and escalate her treatment of him".

Dr Wardlow said the case showed the importance of having a good and harmonious workplace, for managers to actively manage employee behaviour and having adequate policies in place to deal with any problems.

"These policies need to be communicated to all staff so that they know what's acceptable in work and what's not."

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