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‘Struggling immigrants should go back to their country’: Nigerian-born ex-Shoosmiths employee awarded £1,000 for PA’s remark

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Further claims of discrimination and victimisation dismissed

A former administrative assistant at Shoosmiths, who was born in Nigeria, has been awarded £1,000 in damages by an employment tribunal after a colleague standing near her desk allegedly said that “struggling immigrants should go back to their country”.

Bosede Sule, who worked in the national outfit’s Manchester property team, was awarded the four-figure sum “for injury to her feelings”. However, assistant Sule had further claims relating to discrimination and victimisation rejected.

The comment was allegedly made by a personal assistant while she was chatting to another member of the department beside Sule’s desk in June 2016, according to Sule’s witness statement. The PA strongly denied making the remark. An internal investigation, headed by Shoosmiths partner Barbara Rollin, found that the statement was not made.

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The tribunal notes there was some confusion as to what the PA had allegedly said:

“I[n] the claimant’s witness statement she referred to ‘struggling immigrant’ and in the grievance document she referred to ‘struggling immigrants’, so there is a slight difference of emphasis there.”

Interestingly, having been hauled before an employment tribunal, Shoosmiths’ legal team chose not to directly challenge Sule’s version of events with regard to the comment nor call the PA to give evidence. The judgment states:

“We find as a fact that the remark was made based on the unchallenged evidence of the claimant with the respondent not calling the evidence that was available to it to refute the allegation. The views of Ms Rollin who has heard from the relevant people do not in our judgment go far enough to overturn the ‘unchallenged evidence of the claimant.'”

The tribunal concludes that “in all of the circumstances we feel it was reasonable for the claimant to have been upset by the remark being made in her presence although not directly towards her”.

While Sule did not appeal the firm’s internal decision, the judgment notes that: “Rollin took the view that the claimant was not letting go in terms of reserving the right to raise the matter again but was not wanting to appeal either, so she had to consider at [a follow-up meeting] how matters should proceed. They did not appear to be able to reach a way of working in the future and so it was her decision that the claimant should be dismissed from her employment.”

The tribunal rejected Sule’s claim that her subsequent dismissal amounted to discrimination and victimisation. The particular reason for the dismissal was “the claimant was not able to let the matter drop whilst not appealing either”.

A spokesperson for Shoosmiths told Legal Cheek:

“Shoosmiths went through the proper process and procedures and this was accepted by the tribunal. The claimant’s claims of discrimination against the firm were rejected. Despite approving of the process followed by Shoosmiths, the tribunal concluded that a single comment allegedly made to the claimant by a co-worker was an act of harassment and awarded compensation. This finding did not identify any flaw in our processes and policies, and it would be inappropriate to comment further on the judgment.”

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16 Comments

Anonymous

“for injury to her feelings” The snowflakes win again. The statement is a valid one after all. Why is it such a taboo to talk about immigrants in a bad light, even when it’s true?

(36)(24)

Opinionated

Truth can be subjective. In fact, it usually is. By the way, are you familiar with the Equality Act 2010? You cannot discriminate against one particular group of people because you believe what you say is true. It’s like Britain First who are claiming that all Muslims are rapists. Jesus.

(18)(22)

Anonymous

Should’ve been awarded more but #RobThisEngland!! Yasss!!

(8)(7)

Anonymous

Feelings?

(4)(1)

Anonymous

Since when has a “four-figure sum” been a thing?

(20)(0)

Anonymous

Not near enough, poor woman.

(8)(17)

Just Anonymous

I don’t think that remark (if made) merited compensation.

The remark clearly refers, not to ‘all immigrants’ but to ‘struggling immigrants.’ In my opinion, ‘struggling’ objectively implies economic struggle: i.e. immigrants who can’t financially support themselves.

Thus understood, the remark is equivalent to saying, ‘Immigrants who can’t financially support themselves shouldn’t be here.’ I don’t consider that opinion inherently outrageous or unreasonable.

Furthermore, if I am correct, the remark did not even apply to Sule. She was working as an administrative assistant. She presumably could support herself. Thus, there was no objective suggestion that she herself should ‘go back to [Nigeria]’.

(34)(6)

Bivvywack

Having been a struggling immigrant myself whilst abroad, I personally have no qualms to such a comment.

But, obviously the tribunal did.

(6)(2)

Anonymous

I think the idea is that x wants to harass y if she says such a thing in y’s presence and then denies it.

It is unpleasant to begin with and then it is clever unpleasantness if it is said to someone else so that it can be denied on two counts…I didn’t say it. Even if I had said It, y would not have been able to hear it etc.

If x is a good pa she will be well liked and indispensable. She may have typed up compromise agreements and investigation reports in her time such that she knows the culture will accept her denial on a word against word basis. She may know the culture favours her anyway.

So y raises a grievance against a competent but nasty pa, let us say.

No one is surprised that y loses. Y might be surprised because she didn’t realise straight away it was inevitable she would lose.

Once she realises it is inevitable, why should she appeal ? The decision not to appeal could be regarded as dignity. Didn’t there used to be a provision that you did not have to participate in a process if it would make you ill ? Is that still law, were the tribunal taken to it if it is ?

On internal appeal, who at the firm is going to go against a competent pa and a competent hr manager ?

It was inevitable that the local tribunal are going to minimise the damage against such a well known firm as well, isn’t it ?

For a bonus point there’s a delayed counter punch here isn’t there ?

What do you think will happen if the firm appeals (or counter punches) the local tribunal panel on the basis that it is perfectly reasonable to present the opinions of the investigating officer without calling the however many witnesses direct ?

“They have been traumatised by the whole experience after all and just want to get on with their lives. Y could have applied for a witness order (s) but didn’t” etc.

Having opened the proceedings with no witnesses – that is the equivalent of a boxer feigning a punch to draw the vulnerable attack from the tribunal, isn’t it ?

The firm might not land the counter punch, it may not run the appeal or it may not have geared up to appeal on from the start, but what if it stood up a fountain court qc at the appeal tribunal to run the traumatised point above ? Or at the court of appeal ? It might just result in a cleansing victory.

The firm would not have been able to appeal if they had called the pa and lost the judgment, do you see ? Genius.

It is a terrible do litigating against repeat player experts.

And of course y may have lied or been mistaken.

Without valid sounding lack of credibility evidence about Y i would have been prepared at least to give y the benefit of the doubt. It is an odd thing to make up on the one hand, but it is typical of clever harassment on the other.

If I had represented y I would have been making Rollin sweat by asking what experience the pa had had in typing up employment disputes to drive at the point that x may have known in advance that she would succeed in a word against word situation.

(3)(4)

Trumpenkrieg

Palm tree justice.

(1)(1)

Trumpensturm

What horsecock.

(4)(1)

Anonymous

This was decided in March 2017. Topical?

(1)(0)

Anonymous

No it wasn’t. Read the date on the ET decision.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

1. Barbara Rollin is a partner in Shoosmiths’ Manchester property team. Surely an independent partner should have investigated if they really wanted an unbiased view?

2. It seems illogical that the ET found Ms Rollin was incorrect in deciding the comment had not been made, but correct in deciding to dismiss the Admin Assistant for not wholeheartedly accepting that [incorrect] decision.

3. No law firm should lose at ET. Poor, poor reflection on Shoosmiths here.

(8)(4)

Just Anonymous

2 misunderstands the situation.

Sule was not fired for “not wholeheartedly accepting that [incorrect] decision.” She was fired for putting Shoosmiths in an impossible position. She rejected the decision but she refused to appeal it.

In my opinion, employers are entitled to require their employees to ‘put up or shut up’: challenge the decision in accordance with company policies, or accept it. Sule chose neither, and that was untenable.

(10)(3)

Anonymous

Arguably reasonable for employee not to go through the process of appealing when she felt she had not received (and was not going to receive) a fair consideration.

(4)(6)

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