The Unite member’s complaints were dismissed by his employer despite being subjected to years of dreadful abuse.
A Wakefield factory worker who was subjected to physical and racial abuse at work has secured £95,000 in compensation following legal action through his union.
The 58-year-old Unite member from Wakefield was forced to take early retirement from his job as a palletiser/quality control operator at Ball Beverage and Packaging in April 2022, after suffering racial harassment, culminating in him being physically attacked.
Among the allegations by the now-retired worker, who had worked at Ball Beverage and Packaging Limited UK - Kenmore Road Site - in Wakefield since 2006, was that press cuttings were distributed anonymously around the factory shop floor, which would reference a person of colour and insert the man’s name with racist comments such as “send them all back home”.
Additionally, racist graffiti was also written on the toilet walls, notice boards and on the man’s toolbox.
The Unite member was subjected to this treatment from around 2007, and it continued throughout his employment. Despite raising the issues with various senior personnel within the business - highlighting the behaviour of one individual - no appropriate action was taken.
On 5 August 2021, he was physically assaulted at work by the individual he had identified to management. He was subjected to racist verbal abuse throughout the attack, had his shirt ripped and suffered bruising to his neck. Following the incident, he was discouraged from reporting the physical and verbal attack by his team leader.
However, it was reported to HR by witnesses, and the perpetrator was dismissed from the company. Following the assault, he was off work for almost six months, due to psychological injuries. His employer, unhappy at the prospect of his continuing absence from work on further sick pay – despite the expert advice of healthcare professionals - terminated his employment on the grounds of “capability”.
With the support of his Unite trade union representative, he overturned this decision and his employment was terminated on the grounds of ill health, allowing him to access his pension and retire.
The former factory worker instructed national law firm Thompsons Solicitors to bring a claim for employer’s liability against Ball Beverage and Packaging. While his former employer denied liability in the case, his legal team were able to help him secure compensation.
The man said: “This experience has been incredibly distressing and has had serious implications for my mental health and I have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Thompsons gave me invaluable support and legal advice throughout my case. My solicitor, Alison, was incredibly professional and showed great understanding and empathy towards me during one of the most stressful and distressing times of my life.
“Most of all, she trusted, supported, and believed in me during a time when my employer saw me more as an inconvenience and behaved in a very uncaring and dismissive manner. The company showed little or no regard for my welfare and well-being.
“I’m now able to move on with my life and concentrate on my mental health and wellbeing whilst closing the door on the worst chapter of my working life.”
Alison Gregory a senior lawyer at Thompsons Solicitors’ Leeds office, who represented the former Wakefield worker, said: "This was an abhorrent experience for our client to endure. The racial harassment he suffered for so many years and the physical attack he was subjected to is truly shocking.
“No one should be subjected to racist bullying and intimidation in the workplace. Employers should be creating safe working environments for all their workers – our client was badly let down in this regard.
"I'm pleased that we could secure a good outcome for him and provide some much-needed closure, so that he can move on and enjoy his retirement."