Waitress awarded $38,000 for enduring ‘gingerism’ at work

Manager and staff sexually taunted her and made fun of her red hair
|Canadian Employment Law Today

A café in Plymouth, U.K., discriminated against one of its waitresses because of her red hair, says a British employment tribunal.

Sarah Primmer, 41, was the target of sexual taunts and other inappropriate remarks made by the night manager of the Rendezvous Café over a period of six months. He frequently asked her if the colour of her hair matched the rest of her body and translated his comments into Turkish for other staff members. Whenever these comments were made, the manager and staff members would laugh and ridicule Primmer.

Primmer eventually took time off work and provided a doctor’s note explaining an illness. However, the café didn’t accept the note and fired her.

Primmer claimed the firing made her so upset she coloured her hair and spent GBP 90 (CDN $195) every three months to keep it blonde. She filed a complaint for unfair dismissal and sexual harassment.

The tribunal found the manager and staff’s behaviour constituted “regular sexual harassment and innuendo” that was meant to demean Primmer and was damaging to her self-esteem.

Primmer was awarded GBP 17,618 (CDN $38,000) compensation for the “denigrating, highly personal and demeaning” treatment she suffered while working at the café.

Primmer was stunned by the size of her award, but she said it doesn’t make it all better.

“I was teased about my red hair at school and called coppernob and Duracell, but no-one had mentioned the colour of my hair to me for years,” she told BBC News. “It is not nice to be ginger.”

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