Man wins racism case after boss mocks him with ‘Leprechaun Dance’
A warehouse worker has won a racism case after his manager mimicked his Irish accent and ‘danced like a leprechaun’.
‘Outraged’ Jonathan Kelly has complained that boss Michael Montgomery was ‘making fun of my flag and making fun of my country’ after he copied his accent during a meeting.
Mr Montgomery – a director of Oriental Food Suppliers Hoo Hing in Essex, England – also ‘lowered his head and shook his shoulders from side to side’ to pretend to be a dancing leprechaun , heard a court.
Mr Montgomery, who is from Northern Ireland but moved to England when he was young, claimed he was not teased and ‘falls into an Irish accent sometimes’.
However, Mr Kelly is now in line for compensation after a court ruled Mr Montgomery’s humor was ‘crass and insensitive’ and amounted to racial harassment.
The hearing, at the East London Tribunal Centre, was told Mr Kelly went to speak to Mr Montgomery after another warehouse worker was nearly hit by heavy materials that had been stored incorrectly.
Mr Kelly, who has a “pronounced” Irish accent, admitted he may have been speaking quickly as he was “very upset” by the August 2020 incident.
However, the court heard Mr Montgomery replied: ‘Maybe if you slowed down I could figure out what you’re trying to say’ in ‘a parody Irish accent’.
He also nodded and nodded in what was described as “a mocking imitation of a stereotypical Irish figure”.
When Mr Kelly complained to another member of staff, the court heard that Mr Montgomery had denied the allegations and accused him of being ‘aggressive’.
Filing a complaint, Mr Kelly said he was ‘shocked’ his boss had ‘racially targeted’ him.
In an email, Mr Kelly said: ‘So I came out and saw Caroline, took her out and said ‘this man is laughing at me, laughing at my flag, makes fun of my country, including my accent” and basically I don’t.
“He basically denied everything – then he tried to say, ‘I don’t like your tone of voice, you were quite aggressive’, I said ‘you’re damn right, I’m aggressive because you just insulted me”.’
After Mr Kelly took his complaint further, he was made to wait in a room ‘all day’ before a grievance meeting which lasted just 18 minutes.
Labor judge David Massarella ruled that although Mr Montgomery’s aim was to ‘defuse’ the situation with humour, his choice of actions was ‘misguided’.
The judge added: “Mr. Kelly wasn’t just upset by the conduct — he was deeply offended by it. We are convinced that he felt his dignity had been violated.
“It would be hard to argue that making fun of someone by adopting a stereotypical accent and set of gestures was anything other than inherently discriminatory.
“There is no doubt that part of the reason Mr. Montgomery behaved the way he did was because [Mr Kelly] is Irish.
“If he was looking to defuse a difficult situation with someone who wasn’t Irish, he obviously wouldn’t have adopted a fake Irish accent.”
A court report said: ‘It was not a Northern Irish accent. We accept Mr. Kelly’s evidence that the way Mr. Montgomery spoke was mocking him and that the accent he adopted was a mockery of a Southern Irish accent.
Mr Kelly won a racial harassment complaint and a victimization complaint over his treatment before the grievance meeting. An appeal hearing will be held at a later date to decide compensation.