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Discrimination still a major player in organisations

September 30, 2016

Australia Post was ordered to pay $40,000 in compensation for a colleague racially discriminating against a worker. However, claims for aggravated damages and exemplary damages were rejected.

A postal delivery driver for Australia Post was subjected to racial teasing by being called “a black bastard”, a “f@#*ing black bastard” and being told to “go home” to Sri Lanka. He was also referred to as “slave labour” by a colleague.

As a result, the driver claimed $100,000 in damages for the pain, suffering, humiliation and distress, as well as an apology from Australia Post. He sought a further $100,000 in aggravated damages as Australia Post did nothing to prevent the racial abuse or defend him despite multiple complaints being lodged.

The Federal Circuit Court Judge Phillip Burchardt was unable to award compensation for the loss based on Australia Posts’ alleged lack of efforts as it was not motivated by the driver’s race. The driver was awarded with $40,000 in compensation as Judge Burchardt found that the driver experienced significant indignity, which was supported by medical evidence. The Judge found that the colleague’s remarks were intermittent and not at the worst end of the possible scale, hence the compensation amount. However, the compensation is well deserved as the remarks were extraordinarily demeaning and offensive.

Exemplary damages were not awarded as there was no evidence of ‘egregious conduct’ of Australia Post. An apology from Australia Post was also not required as it would not compensate the driver for his suffering.

This case serves as a reminder that discrimination still occurs in even the biggest of workplaces. For more information on how to manage and prevent discrimination in your organisation, please call the National Retail Association Hotline on 1800 RETAIL (738 245).

Murugesu v Australia Post & Anor (No.2) [2016] FCCA 2355 (15 September 2016)

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