Having black friends does not mean you cannot discriminate, employment tribunal rules as it finds Boots pharmacist was racially harassed
- Samson Famojuro successfully sued the high street giant for racial harassment
Having black friends does not mean you cannot discriminate, an employment tribunal was told as it found a senior Boots pharmacist was racially harassed.
Boots pharmacy technician Emma Walker argued she ‘could not have’ discriminated against black senior pharmacist Samson Famojuro as two black Nigerian women came to her wedding and she is ‘friendly’ with other black colleagues.
But employment Judge David Massarella found ‘the fact that a person has black friends does not mean they cannot discriminate in other contexts’.
People who defend themselves against accusations of prejudice by pointing to ethnic minorities in their social circle can still discriminate against them, the judge said.
As such, the claim cannot be used as a legitimate defence, the tribunal concluded.
Mr Famojuro, an experienced pharmacist of Nigerian origin, has now successfully sued the high street giant for racial harassment and unfair constructive dismissal and is in line to receive compensation.
On July 18, 2020, Samson Famojuro was assigned to work at the Silva Island Way Branch in Wickford, Essex (stock image)
The East London tribunal heard Mr Famojuro began working as a relief pharmacist, covering for the main pharmacist when they are absent, in March 2012.
On July 18, 2020, he was assigned to work at the Silva Island Way Branch in Wickford, Essex.
The pharmacist worked the shift with technician Mrs Walker and pharmacy assistant Nicole Daley, two white women who were junior to Mr Famojuro.
During the shift, Mr Famojuro was subjected to ‘open insubordination’, ‘highly personalised abuse’, and Mrs Walker threatening to call the police on him, the tribunal heard.
He was stereotyped as an ‘aggressive black man’ and the harassment was so bad he was ‘shaken and feared for his safety’, the hearing was told.
The tribunal heard Miss Daley had refused a work-related request he made and snapped at him in front of customers.
About 20 minutes later, Mr Famojuro ‘calmly’ approached Ms Daley and asked her for a ‘private word’.
However, Miss Daley claimed he had a ‘very loud, aggressive’ tone and ‘was in close proximity to [her], shouting that [she] needed to leave’.
Miss Daley began to cry and Mrs Walker stepped in.
During a heated row Mrs Walker shouted at Mr Famojuro and ordered him to leave even though she did not have the authority to do so, the tribunal heard.
Mrs Walker phoned store manager Amy Munson, who is also white, believed the allegations without question and shouted at Mr Famojuro down the phone saying ‘you’re an utter disgrace for making Ms Daley cry’, the hearing was told.
Mr Famojuro ended up having to leave the store ‘humiliated’ after Mrs Walker threatened to call the police.
He later felt as if he had no choice but to resign from Boots after a lengthy investigation process.
At the tribunal, Mrs Walker said: ‘His voice was raised, he was shouting, he was loud.
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‘I was defending my colleague and me, we were two women. We felt threatened as women. He was very aggressive, he was a bully.’
She also argued she did not racially harass Mr Famojuro.
A tribunal report said: ‘Mrs Walker told the tribunal that she could not have been influenced by his race because, having worked with the company for 25 years, she made a lot of friends with pharmacists, two of whom were black Nigerian women who came to her wedding; one of them sang.
‘She also invited several Asian pharmacists to her wedding. Moreover, the full-time pharmacists in the store, Ms Teelockhand, was Mauritian; the current pharmacist is Vietnamese.’
Judge Massarella ruled Mr Famojuro was racially harassed.
The judge said: ‘Mrs Walker, Miss Daley and Ms Munson treated him adversely, both in front of customers and in their absence.
‘The treatment escalated as the day went on, from dismissive discourtesy, to open insubordination, to highly personalised abuse.
‘Mrs Walker’s threat to call the police was the most extreme of the acts.
‘For a black man to be reported to the police for aggression against two white women, in the absence of any third-party witnesses, is potentially a very serious matter indeed.
‘We have no doubt that, subjectively, he found their treatment of him distressing and humiliating…By the end of the day he was shaken and feared for his safety.
‘Mr Famojuro is an experienced professional of many years’ standing; he is a dignified, sensitive and courteous man. It was clear to us that the events of that day had a very grave effect on him.’
The judge dismissed Mrs Walker’s argument.
‘Mrs Walker, Ms Daley and Ms Munson made no overt racist comments.
‘We have no reason to doubt Mrs Walker’s evidence that she is friendly with other black colleagues, but the fact that a person has black friends does not mean they cannot discriminate in other contexts.’
The tribunal found Mrs Walker and Miss Daley had given ‘distorted and exaggerated’ accounts of what happened.
‘Their repeated allegations of aggression could reasonably lead us to the conclusion that Mrs Walker and Ms Daley were stereotyping (or racially profiling) Mr Famojuro as an aggressive black man, when all he was doing was seeking to assert his authority, in circumstances where they were undermining it,’ it said.
Other claims of race discrimination the pharmacist made were dismissed.
Compensation will be decided at a later date.
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