In Sheun v Northern General Hospital, the Claimant’s colleague had mimicked a “stereotypical” Chinese accent and repeated “kung-fu” noises commonly found in Chinese martial arts films, while another would deliberately over-pronounce words in a Chinese accent.
The Claimant made an informal complaint in 2016, and a further formal complaint in 2018, after which one colleague received a formal warning and the Claimant brought his claim for harassment. At the hearing, the Claimant informed the Tribunal he had suffered from discriminatory treatment during his childhood, which included his classmates making “kung-fu” noises.
The Tribunal held the Claimant had been racially harassed by his colleagues and he was awarded just over £28,000 in compensation, including an award of £19,000 for injury to feelings due to the impact of the conduct on the Claimant. Whilst, on the facts, the colleagues did not intend to cause the Claimant distress, it was clear the conduct had undermined the Claimant’s dignity. The Tribunal also found that his previous experiences could be considered when assessing the reasonableness of the effect of the conduct.
It serves as a reminder to employers that harassment does not have to be intentional; what is key is the effect the conduct has on the employee.