Faisal Abdi, a cleaner for a company outsourced to Nationwide Building Society, will receive a compensatory payout after an employment tribunal ruled that he faced racial discrimination.
38-year-old Abdi faced discrimination for being Black and Somali – including being called a “cheeky monkey” and a “golliwog”.
Abdi is also disabled and diagnosed with PTSD after fleeing the civil war in Somalia, arriving in the UK in 2001.
The 37-page judgment reveals that Abdi raised a complaint about the choice of language from his colleague Susan Standing. Management, however, dismissed it – instead arguing that such racist language functioned as a “term of endearment” and he should “appreciate there are cultural differences in language”.
A central pillar of the judgment detailed how Mark Wilson had “closed his mind” to the possibility that Standing’s comment had a racial motivation and that calling a Black colleague a “cheeky monkey” did not equate to racist bullying.
Nor did another manager, Eric Dawson, explain why he undertook no meaningful investigation either and failed to address the allegations of racial discrimination or that such language would be racist towards a Black person.
On two occasions referred to Faisal Abdi as a “golliwog” between October and November 2019 – including showing him a photo of the offensive doll, persisting even when informed that he found it offensive. The tribunal clarified that “the golliwog doll being universally considered a racist caricature and such a comment widely accepted as a racial slur towards black people”.
For academics, the golliwog doll was a caricature of a racist minstrel doll owned by author Florence Kate Upton, serving as a “caricature of an anti-black caricature“. Other research links the doll to perpetuating anti-Black stereotypes, with earlier iterations of the doll having appendages resembling paws.
The panel accepted that Abdi had not previously raised complaints about the “golliwog” comment owing to ill-health, stress, and a lack of support from staff.
Compensation is due to be determined at a later date.
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