Council loses appeal in racist abuse case

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Sheffield Council has lost an appeal against tribunal findings that it did not do enough to protect a social worker from harassment and racist abuse by an unruly youngster.

Ghasem Norouzi, of Iranian origin, was employed by the council to work in a home for troubled children - where he was subjected to racist abuse by an ‘extremely challenging’ girl.

An employment tribunal was told the girl - referred to only as A - mocked and mimicked his accent, told him he should ‘go back to his own country’ and, on one occasion, said she would like to blow up the whole of Asia and all Asians.

Having endured the abuse on most shifts he worked with her, Mr Norouzi became increasingly upset by her behaviour and, after going on sick leave in June 2008, never returned to work.

He took his case to the tribunal in 2009, accusing the council of indirect race discrimination by not doing enough to protect him from the girl’s offensive behaviour.

Mr Norouzi said the local authority let racist behaviour persist by not investigating or challenging it properly, and claimed the council didn’t offer enough support to staff who were victims of repeated racist abuse and harassment.

The tribunal, sitting in Sheffield, upheld his claim and found the council treated the girl’s behaviour as ‘tolerable’ and should have done more to remedy the situation.

Sheffield Council challenged that decision at the Employment Appeal Tribunal in April, arguing the tribunal made an ‘error of law’ by not stating which steps it believed the council should have taken to protect Mr Norouzi.

They also argued Mr Norouzi was at the time ‘not particularly pushing’ for any action to be taken, despite being ‘fed up’ with the girl’s behaviour.

But, dismissing the council’s appeal, Mr Justice Underhill said a time came when the abuse was clearly drawn to the council’s attention as needing further action, and that the tribunal did indicate what could have been done.

The judge said: “In particular, the tribunal said the council should have discussed the specific incidents with the claimant after they occurred,giving appropriate support.’’

Mr Justice Underhill’s ruling opens the way for Mr Norouzi to claim compensation from the council.