In a blatant case of race discrimination, a car washer of Maori background was given a can of sunscreen by his workmates with the label “black guy repllent” written on it.
Employee advocacy firm Discrimination Claims has lodged a claim in the Anti-Discrimination Commission of Queensland on behalf of the man, after he was subjected to months of horrific race-based abuse at the car hire business where he worked on the state’s Fraser Coast, which culminated with him being given the ‘doctored’ can of sunscreen.
The 45 year-old is now on WorkCover and under the care of a psychiatrist and psychologist for anxiety and depression as a result of the racial abuse, which Miles Heffernan, Director of Litigation at Discrimination Claims, described as appalling.
“It is the absolute worst level of racial discrimination that I have seen in practicing in 20 years,” he said.
The man said his co-workers would make endless jokes about the colour of his dark skin, referring to him as a “black c**t” and “black bastard”, and “where is the black fella?”
In addition, they would also mock him because despite his Maori background, he has a Scottish name.
Eighteen months ago, the worker approached his boss about getting a sun shade for the area where he was working, and was told, “Nah mate, you don’t need it because you’re black.”
In October, after again being refused a request for a sun shade, the worker asked if he could have some sunscreen instead.
Later that day he was approached by a colleague who told him there was a “present” waiting for him in the next car to be cleaned at the hire company.
When he opened the door, the man found a can of Le Tan sunscreen, wrapped in gold tape with the words, “black guy repllent – caution! only use on blacks”.
The worker was so shocked and distressed he went home, but that wasn’t the end of it.
“The boss sent the worker responsible for the prank over to my client’s house with the intention of saying sorry, and of course, that was seen to be threatening by my client, so it only made things worse for him,” Mr Heffernan said.
The man took time off work, but the boss kept paying him his wages, Mr Heffernan believes it was a deliberate ploy to discourage the employee from making a WorkCover claim.
“WorkCover has a limited time period when you can apply to make a claim, and my client was only a couple of weeks away from the deadline when we intervened.”
The claim was approved, paving the way for the man to sue his employer for negligence.
In addition, Discrimination Claims lodged the claim of race discrimination in the Anti-Discrimination Commission, where the employer now faces penalties that are uncapped.
“Under Queensland law, an employer is protected from a discrimination claim if they can show they did everything they could to prevent it, including implementing training programs for their staff – none of that happened in this case,” Mr Heffernan said.
“Our client was treated less favourably because of the colour of his skin, and that is textbook race discrimination.”
The matter is set for mediation in the Anti-Discrimination Commission next month, and if a settlement is not reached, the case will then move to the Industrial Relations Commission for a full hearing.
“If the employer is not bringing a very big cheque for my client, I will be advising him to proceed with his claim.
“If it bankrupts the business involved, it bankrupts the business, I don’t care.
“This sort of conduct should bankrupt a business because no worker should ever be exposed to it – it has been responsible for ruining my client’s life,” Mr Heffernan said.
If you believe you have been discriminated against on the basis of race, you may be entitled to compensation. Please call Discrimination Claims on 1300 853 837 for expert and confidential advice about your options.