A Polish chef has spoken of his relief after winning a racial discrimination case against a former Co Londonderry restaurant.
Damian Anysz has been awarded £15,000 after an industrial tribunal found in his favour.
He said it had been hard speaking about the case during the tribunal and was glad it was over.
Mr Anysz said he had initially enjoyed working at Sizzlers restaurant in Magherafelt but later suffered racist abuse and was jostled on the job.
The tribunal decision document names co-worker June Fullerton as making racist remarks to Mr Anysz.
He claimed she had used foul language as she told him to “go back to his country”.
There was a very bad atmosphere in work, a lot of whispering behind my back and I did think about resigningMr Anysz
“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,” he said.
“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.”
Mr Anysz worked as a commis chef at Sizzlers, which later closed during insolvency, from November 2016 to July 15, 2018.
After he first complained about the situation, he said initially nothing was done.
“I wasn’t believed until a local member of staff confirmed that what I said was right,” he said.
In November 2017 Ms Fullerton was suspended on full pay and invited to a formal disciplinary meeting about the swearing incident. She was reinstated on December 21 and returned to work with no notice or explanation to Mr Anysz.
The tribunal found that Mr Anysz was subjected to “abuse that was demeaning and undermining”.
It said it was satisfied that the failure of management to act appropriately was “not an omission, but part of a deliberate course of action, resulting in the behaviour continuing, albeit in a less overt form”.
This case underlines yet again the importance of the good and harmonious workplace, the need for managers to actively manage staff behaviour, and having policies in place to deal with any problemsDr Michael Wardlow, Equality Commission
Mr Anysz took his case with the assistance of the Equality Commission.
“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 said.
Mr Anysz has been awarded just over £15,000 by the Industrial Tribunal, £14,000 of which is for injury to feelings.
Dr Michael Wardlow, chief commissioner of the Equality Commission, said the case underlines the importance of a good and harmonious workplace.
“Damian came to Northern Ireland to work and he was prepared to work hard,” he said.
“As the tribunal found, he was subjected to demeaning and undermining abuse and a whispering campaign aimed at isolating him from his colleagues.
“What once had been an environment in which he felt welcome and valued became one where he felt that he was at the mercy of the mood of another member of staff.
“That situation was permitted and compounded by the respondents, by failing to address and resolve the original misconduct by Ms Fullerton, thereby enabling her to repeat and escalate her treatment of him.
“This case underlines yet again the importance of the good and harmonious workplace, the need for managers to actively manage staff behaviour, and having 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.”