Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
Contractor who suffered monkey chants and racial abuse at Probation Service wins payout
A former contractor engaged by HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) has received a financial settlement following allegations of racial discrimination at the Probation Service offices in Reading.
The case, supported by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), involved Lloyd Odain, who was employed by a contractor used by the Probation Service.
While working for the service, Mr Odain was subjected to multiple incidents of racial discrimination and harassment by another contractor in 2019.
These included the person making monkey chants towards Mr Odain while he was talking to colleagues.
Mr Odain reported the racist behaviour to managers at the Probation Service but, following a flawed investigation, the offender was allowed to return to work in the same office, leaving Mr Odain with no choice but to leave the job he enjoyed.
The monkey chants were not disputed by the Probation Service in the legal case which instead focussed on the liability of organisations to protect workers employed through third parties from harassment from other workers also employed through third parties.
More than three years after Mr Odain’s initial complaint, HMPPS settled the case after a preliminary hearing found it may be liable for the racist behaviour of the contractor towards Mr Odain. The settlement was accepted before the final hearing.
Mr Odain received compensation, but the settlement does not include an admission of liability, or commitment from HMPPS to review its policy around how contractors are treated.
Kishwer Falkner, Chairwoman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:
“Everyone going to work should expect to feel safe from harm and no one should suffer the shocking racism experienced by Mr Odain.
“Employers, third party contractors, and workers all benefit if any awful incidents like this are addressed quickly and appropriately by management.
“It is disappointing that, in this case, HM Prison and Probation Service chose to defend themselves on the basis of legal technicalities rather than to commit positively to protect and support their own staff. Racism is never acceptable.
‘We hope the financial settlement will help Mr Odain move on from his experience. As Britain’s equality watchdog, we will continue to use our unique powers to help people like Mr Odain seek justice through initiatives like our fund for race discrimination cases.”
Mr Odain said:
“I feel grossly let down by the Prison and Probation Service. I worked in the Reading office for many years in different roles and took pride in my job helping people who were struggling to find a path in life.
“After being subjected to monkey chants and other racist behaviour, I followed the correct processes in making a complaint. I felt ignored and isolated as nothing appeared to be done. I then found out that the person who had behaved so appallingly was back working in the building. The thought of dealing with more racism, and having no support, left me with no option but to give up the job I enjoyed and was good at.
“I have spent more than three years fighting for change so that others shouldn’t face what I faced. I hope that, by exposing the horrendous treatment I suffered, HMPPS learn lessons from this case.
“I am grateful to the Equality and Human Rights Commission and to my solicitors for their support. I couldn’t have continued fighting for so long without their help.”
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