Ukrainian Asda sales assistant wins £63,000 for racial harassment

Ukrainian Asda sales assistant wins £63,000 for racial harassment after boss picked on her because he knew her cultural work ethic meant she would not complain

  • Svitlana Henderson’s colleagues got away with incorrect footwear, but not her
  • Loyal Asda worker of 15 years was threatened, denied breaks and given ‘nasty’ comments, and also left to work in cold chillers for more than five hours at a time
  • Tribunal ruled her bosses at Asda in Accrington, Lancashire ‘singled her out’
  • A Ukranian Asda sales assistant has won £63,000 for racial harassment after she was picked on by her cruel bosses who ‘singled her out’ because of her nationality.

    An employment tribunal has found that Svitlana Henderson, who had worked at Asda for 15 years before she resigned, faced a five-month campaign of abuse and harassment as the only non-British member of the team at the store in Accrington, Lancashire. 

    Hard-working but ‘quiet’ Mrs Henderson, was shouted at by her manager over her footwear, shoes with pink soles – while her British colleagues got away with it and didn’t get told off.

    The loyal Asda worker was threatened, denied breaks, not included in team huddles, subjected to ‘nasty’ comments, and left to work in cold chillers for more than five hours.

    In a damning ruling at the Manchester Employment Tribunal, a judge found that section leader at the Asda store, Mark Bates, viewed her as an ‘easy target’ as ‘he knew she was Ukrainian and that her cultural work ethic made her subservient to her managers’.

    Section leader Fozia Khan, who shouted at Mrs Henderson for wearing black shoes with pink soles, decided to pick on her rather than English colleagues who breached the dress code because she knew she wouldn’t resist it.

    Mrs Henderson suffered mental health issues as a result of the harassment and ‘has lost her confidence and is now in a vulnerable position’. 

    Ukrainian Asda sales assistant Svitlana Henderson has won £63,000 for race harassment who faced a five-month campaign of abuse at her workplace of 15 years in Accrington, Lancashire (pictured)

    Ukrainian Asda sales assistant Svitlana Henderson has won £63,000 for race harassment who faced a five-month campaign of abuse at her workplace of 15 years in Accrington, Lancashire (pictured)

    After being driven to tearfully resign, Mrs Henderson successfully sued Asda for racial harassment and constructive unfair dismissal.

    The supermarket giant even tried to get the ruling overturned – but Employment Judge Jennifer Ainscough rejected it and said it was a ‘most serious case’.

    Now, Mrs Henderson has won just over £63,000.

    The Manchester Employment Tribunal heard Mrs Henderson worked for Asda from September 2003 until she resigned in May 2019.

    Mrs Henderson, who worked at Asda in Blackburn, Lancashire, before moving to Accrington, had a strong work ethic.

    However, between January 2019 and when she resigned in May 2019, she suffered the campaign of harassment – but despite reporting it every two weeks no action was taken and she lost all trust.

    The tribunal heard she was given ‘workloads that were impossible to complete’ and on one occasion had to work alone in the chiller area for more than five hours.

    Mr Bates purposefully picked on Mrs Henderson in quiet areas ‘without witnesses’, it was heard.

    He didn’t let her take breaks when she was five-and-a-half hours into shifts and delayed her breaks by giving her tasks to complete – meanwhile he let others take their breaks at appropriate times.

    Mr Bates spoke to her in a ‘condescending’ manner and in one incident ‘followed her’ after challenging her on the shop-floor.

    While she was filling up the milk shelves, Mr Bates invited Mrs Henderson for a ‘friendly chat’ but proceeded to invade her space and stare at her in a threatening way, leaving the worker ‘fearing she would be assaulted’.

    Mrs Henderson was not included in morning team huddles and not invited to social events, it was heard.

    A day before she resigned, Mrs Henderson was given the ‘stern’ dressing down over her shoes by Ms Khan but other colleagues weren’t. The retail giant has a uniform policy which insists upon dark footwear, the tribunal heard.

    In a damning ruling at the Manchester Employment Tribunal (pictured), a judge found that section leader at the Asda store, Mark Bates, viewed her as an 'easy target' as 'he knew she was Ukrainian and that her cultural work ethic made her subservient to her managers'

    In a damning ruling at the Manchester Employment Tribunal (pictured), a judge found that section leader at the Asda store, Mark Bates, viewed her as an ‘easy target’ as ‘he knew she was Ukrainian and that her cultural work ethic made her subservient to her managers’

    On May 8, 2019, ‘aggressive’ Mr Bates shouted at Mrs Henderson over time taken to complete tasks and she was so upset she resigned because it was ‘the last straw’.

    Judge Ainscough said: ‘The tribunal finds that Mark Bates felt comfortable challenging Mrs Henderson because he knew English was not her first language and she was unable to adequately respond.

    ‘Mark Bates knew she was Ukrainian and that her cultural work ethic made her subservient to her managers.

    ‘As a result of English not being her first language and her cultural work ethic, Mrs Henderson did not argue with Mark Bates despite his unacceptable behaviour.

    ‘Mark Bates knew she was Ukrainian and that English was not her first language. This knowledge made her an easy target unlike her English

    colleagues who would be capable of resisting any unsubstantiated challenges or physical intimidation.

    ‘The tribunal has found that the majority of challenges took place in the chilled back area away from colleagues on the shop floor.

    ‘The tribunal infers from this finding that Mark Bates wanted to challenge Mrs Henderson without witnesses as he knew his behaviour was unacceptable.’

    Of Ms Khan, the judge said: ‘Fozia Khan found it easier to challenge Mrs Henderson over the colour of her shoes and the length of break rather than her English colleagues who were likely to resist any such challenge.’

    Judge Ainscough added: ‘There was constant badgering of Mrs Henderson without substance and without reason, and this ground her down such that she lost trust and confidence, particularly when her complaints were not acted upon.

    ‘She could see other colleagues being treated more favourably and that she was singled out.’

    She saw the job as a ‘job for life’ and due to the ‘significant decline’ in her health she is unable to work.