A Northern Irish carpenter has been awarded more than $13,000 in compensation and lost wages after suffering racial abuse, alleged assault resulting in him being hospitalised, and being constructively dismissed from his shopfitting job.
Michael Corbett was called a "thieving Irish bastard", a "dumb Irish bastard" and referred to as "f***ing Irish" by his supervisor and his co-worker at Christchurch company UDP Shopfitters Ltd, an Employment Relations Authority report said.
Mr Corbett said when he started working for the company in June last year, he was abused and sworn at by his supervisor Mr Tobin.
He said when a contractor, Michael Jordan started work with the company, the hostility became worse.
His boss Bryan Hicks told the authority that Mr Corbett took an equal part in banter, which was no worse than the sort that normally takes place amongst many tradesmen.
On September 7, Mr Corbett said Mr Jordan had thrown screws and off-cuts of wood at him.
Mr Jordan told the authority that had "just been done in fun and that it was no more than light hearted flicking".
He thought he and Mr Corbett "got on well" and his Irish comments were made in the spirit of banter that everyone took part in.
That evening Mr Corbett said he was picking up some tools behind Mr Jordan, when Mr Jordan pushed him and punched him, causing him to fall against the wall, resulting in hospital treatment for cuts and nerve damage to his elbow, which needed surgery.
Mr Jordan said he had only pushed Mr Cobett with his elbow, causing him to fall against the wall, in retaliation for being jabbed in the ribs earlier in the day.
He told the authority Mr Hicks brushed the incident aside as "tomfoolery".
He said Mr Hicks then told him the team did not like him and it was best if they parted company, which he took as a dismissal.
Mr Hicks denied this and said he had organised a meeting to discuss the incident - which Mr Corbett failed to turn up to - which he took as Mr Corbett leaving the workplace.
Authority member David Appleton said if Mr Hicks had stopped the bullying when Mr Corbett complained about it in the weeks prior, the incident which led to Mr Corbett being injured may not have happened.
"...the combination of the abuse and bullying that Mr Corbett suffered at the hands of some of his co-workers, including the assault by Mr Jordan, combined with the failure of Mr Hicks to address the issues in any clear manner, and the clear message from Mr Hicks that Mr Corbett did not fit in, cumulatively amounted to a significant breach of trust and confidence by the respondent."
Mr Appleton said what Mr Corbett had to put up with went beyond what an employee could reasonably be expected to put up with, "even in the comparatively relaxed and occasionally heated atmosphere of a busy building site".
He ordered the company to pay Mr Corbett $10,000 in compensation for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to his feelings; and $3161 in lost wages.
He also ordered the company to put in measures to prevent further racial harassment at the workplace.
Photo: NZ Herald