Pharmacist Stereotyped as an ‘Aggressive Black Man’ Wins Race Related Harassment and Constructive Dismissal Claims (Mr S Famojuro v Boots Management Services Ltd and Mrs E Walker)

In the case of Mr S Famojuro v Boots Management Services Ltd and Mrs E Walker, a Nigerian pharmacist won a race-related harassment and constructive dismissal claim

The Facts in Mr S Famojuro v Boots Management Services Ltd and Mrs E Walker

Mr S Famojuro (“The Claimant”) was employed as a relief pharmacist with Boots Management Services Ltd (“First Respondent”) from 3 March 2012. He is black and of Nigerian national origin.

Ms Stephanie Hayes was the store manager at the Claimant’s base store, as well as his line manager. The Claimant’s role as a pharmacist in charge was to effectively run the pharmacy. He would also bag items and scripts himself, but at times he would ask more junior staff to assist him in his tasks.

First Incident of Harassment

On 18 July 2020, whilst he was working in one of the branches at Wickford in Essex, two more junior colleagues were also working in the branch, Ms Daley and Mrs Walker (“The Second Respondent”).  The Claimant asked Ms Daley to assist him by calling another store to release a prescription, which was a common practice. However, she refused saying it was not her job and snapped at him.

He asked to speak to her in private as there were customers in the store, and eventually, asked her to leave for the rest of the day.  She later claimed that he had spoken to her with a “very loud, aggressive” tone, and was standing close to her and shouting for her to leave the store. Mrs Walker then became involved saying he was “out of order” and should leave rather than Ms Daley.

Mrs Walker and Daley then phoned their manager, Ms Munson, who told Mrs Walker that the Claimant should be asked to leave the store. She aggressively spoke to the Claimant, calling him an “utter disgrace”. Mrs Walker then threatened to call the police claiming he was being aggressive. The Claimant telephoned his manager, Ms Hayes who told him to go home, thus leaving the pharmacy with no responsible pharmacist on site.

A Delayed Grievance Process is Held

On 18 July 2020, the Claimant raised a grievance citing harassment and direct discrimination because of race and constructive dismissal.  After several delays due to annual leave, sickness and other problems arranging meetings, on 5 January 2021, witnesses were eventually interviewed. The investigation was chaired by Mr Barton, Pharmacist Store Manager.

On 15 January 2021, the grievance outcome letter was sent to the Claimant that summarised the Claimant’s complaints and some of the evidence. Apart from upholding the Claimant’s complaint about the delay in the grievance process, Mr Barton dismissed all the other complaints. Subsequently, on 22 January 2021, the Claimant appealed against the outcome of his grievance.

On 3 April 2021, the Claimant resigned on notice arguing that the investigation had been too long. He also set out his concerns about his treatment by Mrs Walker, Ms Daley, and Ms Munsen on 18 July 2020. He argued that these were related to harassment and direct discrimination because of his race.

The Claimant argued that during his employment, he was subjected to:

  • Race-related harassment,
  • Direct discrimination because of his race,
  • An unfair process in the way his grievance was dealt with.

The Decision of the Employment Tribunal

The tribunal found in favour of the Claimant in his claims of harassment related to race. His claims for direct race discrimination were dismissed as the claims of harassment were well founded.  The claim for unfair constructive dismissal was upheld. The claims of harassment in relation to the Second Respondent were upheld.

The tribunal expressed their concerns at what they felt were inconsistent and untruthful evidence given by Mrs Walker and Ms Daley. This led them to conclude they were stereotyping (or racial profiling) the Claimant as an aggressive black man, rather than recognising his authority as a specialist. Additionally, Mrs Walker claimed that the Claimant was shouting at Ms Munson which was also dismissed by the tribunal.

Furthermore, the tribunal noted as part of its analysis that Mr Barton lacked knowledge of discrimination law or key concepts when reviewing the evidence in the grievance.

They found that the Claimant had proved facts which led them to reasonably conclude that the treatment he received by Mrs Walker, Ms Daley and Ms Munson was “significantly influenced by (and therefore related to) his race.

The judge also stated in this case, “For a black man to be reported to the police for aggression against two white women, in the absence of any third-party witnesses, is potentially a very serious matter indeed…..”

Our Lawyers View

Steve Norton, lawyer at Redmans says, “The judge in this case made an important observation that where the witnesses (in this case) felt having black friends would prevent them from discrimination, this does not prevent someone acting in a discriminatory way, due to unconscious bias”.

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