In this article, Chris Hadrill, a specialist employment solicitor at Redmans, will analyse the case of McAuley v Auto Alloys Foundry Limited and Taylor  IT/62824/93, a case in which comments such as “typical Irish” and “typical thick Paddy” were held to constitute unlawful discrimination.
The Industrial Tribunal (as it was then) held comments such as “typical Irish” and “typical thick Paddy” towards him by his co-workers, as well as other anti-Irish comments, were discriminatory, and that his dismissal had been because he “would not take Irish jokes lying down”. The Tribunal awarded the Claimant, Trevor McAuley, compensation of £5,902, including £2,500 as injury to feelings.
Trevor McAuley, an Irishman, was employed by Auto Alloys Foundry Limited (“Auto Alloys”) as a general machinist from September 1991 to the summer of 1993. From the start of his employment with Auto Alloys Mr McAuley was subject to various anti-Irish insults and jokes, with those comments including “typical Irish” (said to him when he made a mistake); “how could a Paddy do that?”; and “typical thick Paddy”. As a result of these jokes Mr McAuley complained to the managing of director of Auto Alloys that he was being harassed by his colleagues and, following this, he was moved to a different job. However, following his job move Mr McAuley was subjected to more Irish jokes and insults from other colleagues. In December 1992 Mr McAuley was signed off work sick with stress and in the summer of 1993 he was dismissed by Auto Alloys.
Following his dismissal, Mr McAuley made a claim for discrimination on the grounds of national origin against Auto Alloys Foundry Limited.
The Tribunal’s decision
The Industrial Tribunal upheld his claim, holding that the anti-Irish comments and insults constituted less favourable treatment as a result of Mr McAuley’s national origin. The Tribunal further found that Mr McAuley had been dismissed “principally because he was an Irishman who would not take Irish jokes lying down, in other words, he did not ‘fit in'”.
The Industrial Tribunal awarded Mr McAuley £5,902 as compensation, including a figure of £2,500 in respect of the injury to feelings that he had suffered.
Why is this case important for you?
Although a little outdated, this case is important for both employers and employees. With regards to employers, it demonstrates that employers must take effective steps to control their employees and to prevent them from making discriminatory and/or harassing comments about their colleagues. A failure to do so can lead to potentially costly and time-consuming Employment Tribunal litigation. With regards to employees, if an employee is suffering discrimination at work then they should make a complaint about it to the relevant person at the organisation – if no action, or inadequate action, is undertaken then they may wish to consider pursuing an Employment Tribunal claim to assert their rights.