Property agency worker harassed by boss after ‘outrageous and discriminatory’ comments, tribunal rules

Admin employee awarded £82,000 after winning seven claims for racial harassment and two for gender-related harassment

Property agency worker harassed by boss after ‘outrageous and discriminatory’ comments, tribunal rules

An office worker has been awarded almost £82,000 for claims of racial and gender harassment after receiving an “outrageous and discriminatory” phone call from her employer, a London employment tribunal (ET) has ruled.

The ET unanimously ruled in favour of Ms S Khan, who worked in administration and accounts for north London-based property agency SN Estates Property Services, on nine separate claims.

Out of 14 claims in total, Khan succeeded in seven for race-related harassment and two for gender-related harassment after a string of incidents including a phone call with the company director and owner, Mr M Miah, which the tribunal described as “outrageous and discriminatory”.

Khan, who described herself to the tribunal as being from a Pakistani ethnic background, worked at SN Estates from from 6 March 2017 until her resignation on 7 August the same year.

In the first incident noted by the tribunal, which took place in April 2017, Miah called Khan into an office and began talking about personal matters. He showed her photos of his daughter and spoke of his disappointment that she had married a Pakistani man, using a racial slur to describe his ethnicity. 

Around the same time, Khan mentioned to Miah that her fiancé was meeting her after work. She told the tribunal that 10 minutes before she was about to finish, Miah sent her to run a personal errand. On her way back to the office, Miah called and said: “Is that the guy you are going to marry, the small little dude? He is an idiot, is he a [p***] too?” 

She told the tribunal she asked him not to talk about her fiancé like that, and felt offended by the racist term he used. 

In another incident, the tribunal heard that Miah told Khan: “You are so stingy. I think all Pakistanis are like that,” in reference to the office practice of bringing in snacks to share.

Khan told the tribunal Miah made her the butt of his jokes, and that he would call her ‘kamini’, which she said meant ‘bitch’ in Urdu. She told him to stop using this term as she found it insulting and told him it constituted bullying and harassment. 

In June, Khan said Miah became aggressive about work not being done properly and made threats about her job security. She told the tribunal that he said: “Why aren’t you all doing your jobs properly, do you want me to come and chop all your heads off, when will you [p***s] learn?” Khan believed this was directed at her as the only Pakistani person in the office.

Witnesses at the tribunal gave the impression that Miah “could be volatile”, and one individual described him as someone who could “get a bit upset if things go wrong”. 

Around the same time in June, Khan brought some Indian sweets into the office to share. She said Miah ate all of them, saying: “Why did you bring such a small box, tell your parents they’re stingy,” before reusing the racial slur.

On 5 August, Khan said Miah complained about not receiving bank account information for a colleague who had joined recently as an office administrator. She said he “laid the blame for this squarely at [her] door”.

Later in the day, Khan received a call from Miah, who was angry about the situation and began shouting at her. He became abusive towards her, reusing the racial slur in conjunction with other swear words, and said: “You can’t even do your jobs properly, you retards from all corners of the world.” 

She reported the offensive call to the police, and the tribunal heard Miah was convicted of malicious communication.

On 6 August at about 9pm, Khan emailed Miah to say she would not be able to come into work the following day because she was stressed and suffering from migraines. 

She did not attend work on 7 August, and her fiancé asked SN Estates for a formal grievance meeting to discuss Miah’s behaviour towards her. Miah refused this, saying he did not wish to discuss anything. 

Later that day, Khan was dismissed by email. The tribunal ruled the reason given for dismissal was not her performance, but the suggestion of a formal grievance hearing.

Khan brought claims of race and sexual harassment to the London Central ET, which unanimously ruled that seven of her claims on race-related harassment and two on gender-related harassment succeeded.

Six other claims were dismissed.

Initially, the tribunal ordered SN Estates to pay Khan £100,877 for financial loss, injury to feelings, aggravated damages, psychiatric injury and pension loss.

At a reconsideration hearing on 2 September, the tribunal reduced the award to £81,834 as there was some ambiguity in the psychiatrist’s report as to whether Khan’s injuries were moderately severe or moderate.

Kate Palmer, associate director of advisory at Peninsula, said that although the tribunal saw fit to reduce the amount of compensation, the case demonstrated a "campaign of racially motivated discrimination towards an employee". 

"Staff must feel safe reporting acts of discrimination and these channels should be made clear during routine company inductions," Palmer said.

"At the same time, anyone who witnesses a colleague being subjected to unfavourable treatment should be encouraged to come forward, rather than turning a blind eye to discriminatory conduct, to create a responsible company culture." 

Neither SN Estates nor Khan could be reached for comment.