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A mixed-race worker has been awarded €5,000 for racial harassment after accusing his supervisor of making discriminatory comments about immigrants during a breakfast conversation at work. The incident, which took place in a canteen at an unnamed medical device manufacturing Company, led to a legal complaint under the Employment Equality Act 1998.


According to the worker’s testimony at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), the conversation began with general remarks about immigration and refugees. The supervisor, identified only as Ms H, allegedly stated, “Now they’re coming over here and they’re mixing with us. That’s the problem.” This comment, perceived as malicious and hateful, profoundly affected the worker, who is an Irish citizen of mixed-race heritage with an African father.

The worker described the emotional impact of the conversation, expressing that the experience of racism had caused him severe stress and anxiety. He also noted another colleague’s remark about not wanting to encounter “a bunch of foreigners,” though he believed this comment was made in jest and the colleague later apologised.


In response to the worker’s informal complaint, the company reported that Ms H denied making the comment as alleged but expressed willingness to apologize for any distress caused. Unsatisfied, the worker lodged a formal grievance. The Company’s investigation could not conclusively confirm or deny that Ms H made the comments, with notes from an interview indicating she denied the comments in that context but acknowledged making a similar reference in a previous conversation.

Ms H was unable to attend the WRC hearing due to health reasons, and no sworn evidence was provided by her. WRC adjudicator Orla Jones concluded that the comments created an intimidating and hostile environment for the complainant. Jones criticized the company’s handling of the situation, noting the worker’s repeated requests for a transfer away from his supervisor, which the company claimed was not feasible due to training requirements. Jones deemed this response unsatisfactory, stating it fell short of legal obligations to address the effects of harassment.


In her decision, Jones ruled the complaint well-founded and awarded the worker €5,000 in compensation. She rejected claims that the worker had suffered less favourable treatment due to the refusal to transfer him and dismissed a further allegation that he had been penalised for making the complaint.

This case underscores the importance of employers addressing racial harassment proactively and ensuring a safe, inclusive work environment. The decision highlights the need for effective grievance procedures and appropriate responses to complaints to prevent and remedy workplace discrimination.