Worker Compensated for Making “Racist” Comments
A sales executive who was let go for making ‘racist’ comments was compensated for the poor handling of her dismissal. Without providing the full details, her company, CD Australia Pty Ltd, advised that she could choose to resign, or the company would dismiss her.
CD Australia owns several bars, with associated entities that manufacture alcohol. One of these services was the personal branding of alcohol cans for clients.
It was known in the company that the marketing manager did not like the process for making branded cans. The sale executive spoke to a co-worker on the phone regarding a recent large order of cans and joked that due to frustrations, the marketing manager would “kill her” and “swear at her in Brazilian”. When corrected that the marketing manager was from Argentina, the sale executive replied, “they’re all the same.”
After the incident, the sale executive was called into a meeting by her sales manager. Her manager refused to inform her what the purpose of the meeting was. In the meeting, she was advised she could either choose to resign or be terminated. The procedure omitted the opportunity to respond.
Commissioner Jennifer Hunt reasoned that by lumping the two South American countries together, the sale executive demonstrated an unsophisticated geographical intelligence and emotional intelligence, rather than being racist. Commissioner Hunt stated that she could have been formally coached or educated on the issue. Commissioner Hunt also stated that accents of Americans and Canadians, Australian and New Zealand are also often confused. She went on to state that if these mistakes and errors always caused offence, then there “would be a lot of people walking around offended.”
Commissioner Hunt reasoned that dismissing the worker “was capricious and spiteful” primarily motivated by internal deterioration of relationships other employees had with the sale executive, and the accusation of racism and resulting dismissal were effectively an excuse to remove her. It was “unfair to label her as a racist person.”
- Procedures regarding termination of an employee on the grounds of their behaviour should follow legal procedure including, but not exclusive to, providing a show cause letter and allowing an opportunity to respond before dismissal.
- Ensure adequate training on cultural competency, unconscious bias and discrimination for all employees is provided.