Win for Howells Solicitors in racial harassment case

South Yorkshire firm Howells Solicitors has won a case over racial harassment during an equality and diversity training session.

The case focused on Theresa Georges (pictured), who was subjected to racial discrimination by Welsh housing association Pobl Group.

Georges attended an equality and diversity training session, at the instruction of her employer, where the trainer of the session wrote racist words on a flipchart, and then encouraged the 16 people present to shout out derogatory words that came to mind.

Despite making multiple complaints to her management, Georges’ grievances and objections were dismissed and the business was adamant it had done nothing wrong.

Commenting on her experience, Georges said: “It was awful, I couldn’t believe what was happening. The whole scenario was offensive, pointless and crude.”

“I’ve done lots of diversity training in the past and never been subjected to an exercise like that.”

Howells employment law specialist Patrick Macken was assigned to the case and quickly identified that Georges had been the victim of racial discrimination in the workplace.

During legal proceedings, Pobl Group claimed that it wasn’t at fault and that the team training session was a ‘safe zone’. It also claimed it had run this session before with no complaints.

Macken said: “Just because you call a meeting a safe zone in the workplace does not mean it’s reasonable for offensive language to be used.”

The case was taken to an employment tribunal where a liability hearing was conducted. The judge unanimously upheld Georges’ claim under the Equality Act.

Commenting on the outcome, Macken said: “A great outcome for our client, who won her case of racial harassment against one of Wales’ largest housing associations—and a reminder to employers that even equality and diversity (anti-discrimination) training can be discriminatory if not delivered properly.”

“Employers need to consider how they handle training sessions which covers topics such as harassment and discrimination and ensure that they are complying with employment laws.”

Howells is awaiting details of the remedy hearing, where the firm believes Georges will receive compensation for the incident.