Law Report: Employer Liable for Racism in the Workplace
Jones v Tower Boot Co Ltd; Court of Appeal (Lord Justice McCowan, Lord Justice Waite, Lord Justice Potter) 11 December 1996
The question whether an employer was liable under section 32(1) of the Race Relations Act 1976 for acts of discrimination perpetrated by an employee "in the course of his employment" was to be answered by reference to the ordinary meaning of those words rather than to the more stringent requirements of the common law concept of vicarious liability.
The Court of Appeal allowed an appeal by Raymondo Virtue Jones, reversed the decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal on 13 June 1995, and restored that of an industrial tribunal, awarding Mr Jones pounds 5,000 on his claim against his employers, Tower Boot Co Ltd, under sections 1 and 4 of the Race Relations Act 1976. Robin Allen QC, John Whitmore and Thomas Kibling (Campaign for Racial Equality, legal department) for Mr Jones; Simon Buckhaven and Philip Gallway- Cooper (Smith Chamberlain, Wellingborough) for the company. Lord Justice Waite said that in April 1992 Mr Jones, then aged 16, began work at the employers' shoe factory as a last operative. He was of mixed ethnic parentage and was joining a workforce which had not previously employed anyone from an ethnic minority. From the outset he was subjected by fellow employees to harassment of the gravest kind. He was called by such racially offensive names as "chimp" and "monkey". A notice had been stuck on his back reading "Chipmunks are go". Two employees whipped him on the legs with a piece of welt and threw metal bolts at his head. One of them burnt his arm with a hot screwdriver, and later the same two seized his arm again and tried to put it in a lasting machine, where the burn was caught and started to bleed again. Unable to endure this treatment, Mr Jones left the job after four weeks. He made a complaint against the employers of racial discrimination, contending that his fellow employees had subjected him to a discriminatory detriment on racial grounds under section 4(2)(c) of the 1976 Act, and that the employers were liable by virtue of section 32(1) because the acts had been done by the employees in the course of their employment. …