An army chef who won more than £15,000 compensation from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) after he was racially abused by a sergeant and a civilian contractor has had his pay-out more than halved. The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) ruled that the MoD could not be held responsible in law for words spoken by the civilian and that the £12,000 the claimant was awarded in respect of the sergeant’s racist remark was ‘wrong in principle and manifestly excessive’.
The African-born soldier was stationed in the Falklands in 2010 when the civilian worker, who was employed by an independent contractor, told him: ‘Why should I trust you? First of all you are a private in the British Army and then you are black.’ He also suffered verbal abuse from a sergeant who shouted ‘shut up you dumb black b******’ during a row concerning football.
The MoD accepted that the claimant had been the victim of race discrimination and an employment tribunal awarded him £3,500 in respect of the comment made by the civilian and £12,000 in respect of the sergeant’s remark. Both awards were to compensate him for injury to his feelings.
Applying common law principles of agency, the EAT ruled that the MoD had wrongly been held liable for the civilian’s ‘very upsetting’ comment. Also allowing the MoD’s appeal against the award made in respect of the sergeant’s remark, the EAT ruled that £12,000 was excessive and concluded: ‘In the present case… the proper award, at the top of the lower band, is one of £6,000’.