Muslim called 'bomb chucker' awarded $25,000

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Muslim called 'bomb chucker' awarded $25,000

A Lebanese Muslim who was called 'bomb chucker' at his work has been awarded $25,000 in compensation for his 'distress, humiliation and embarrassment'.

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A Lebanese Muslim who was called 'bomb chucker' at his work has been awarded $25,000 in compensation for his 'distress, humiliation and embarrassment'.

The man, Mohamed Abdulrahman, was suing his employer, Toll Express, over what he said was months of racial torment. The company denied all the accusations, but a union delegate appearing as a witness for the employer admitted in evidence that there was a culture of name calling and nicknames in the workplace, and he himself was known as 'maggot'.

According to the findings of the Equal Opportunity Division of the Administrative Decisions Tribunal, at this point the company's defence, that none of the harassment had occurred, collapsed.

Lebanese background

According to the decision, Abdulrahman is a Lebanese Muslim born in Australia, who identifies himself as an Australian with a Lebanese background.

He was employed mostly as a forklift driver, though sometimes worked on 'cabbaging', which involved lifting gates onto the sides of trucks and securing the load.

He claimed his manager, Troy Wallace, other workers, and Les Ponting the union delegate, called him names, suggested he change his name from Mohamed to 'John or whatever' and that Wallace on many occasions referred to him as 'Mokaakaakaahomed' as if he could not say his name properly.

Abdulrahman claimed Wallace would sometimes pronounce his name that way over the workplace loudspeaker system, which he found 'mocking and embarrassing'. He also claimed Wallace asked him if his wife wore a headscarf around her head and face and when told she did said: 'F*ck that … I like to see some body'.

'Osama Bin Laden'

Abdulrahman claimed that Ponting called him 'Osama Bin Laden' or 'bomb chucker' two or three times a week for six months. He said other workers also began to call him these names because they thought it was an acceptable nickname.

He said he had told Ponting he did not like being called names but Ponting just walked away and ignored him. Abdulrahman later complained to State Manager Jamie Primmer who told him to 'leave it with him' but the name calling did not stop.

He conceded that he had once said 'shut up you c*nt' when another workers called him a 'f*cking grumblebum', and that had been said in front of a female employee who told him to 'watch you language'.

No evidence

In his evidence Primmer said he had investigated the allegations and was unable to find any evidence to support them. He did not believe there had been any racial discrimination against Abdulrahman and he had interviewed everyone concerned. He said Ponting had denied the accusation.

Wallace told the Tribunal there were no discriminatory comments or action directed at Abdulrahman either by other employees or himself. He never asked him to change his name or addressed him in a 'demeaning or humiliating manner'.

In his written statement Ponting denied he discriminated against Abdulrahman in any way. He said that in the course of his employment he, on many occasions, dealt with issues of discrimination and harassment, and that he was aware of his responsibilities with respect to those issues.

Called names

However under cross-examination Ponting conceded that it was normal in the industry in which he and Abdulrahman worked to be called names and that the name-calling tended to upset people. He said that he was known as 'Maggot'. He agreed that on the floor where everyone worked there was name-calling and racial slurs. He said that he was often called 'Wog' or 'Dago' because of his Italian descent/background.

Ponting said he had heard some of the things that Abdulrahman claimed he had been called. He said that Abdulrahman was upset by the slurs. Ponting told the Tribunal that he believed the name-calling had occurred as alleged by Abdulrahman but he said that it was just 'hearsay'.

Ponting told the Tribunal that he informed Primmer there was a lot of this going on but he did not specifically identify any one person.

Racial slurs

He told the Tribunal that he did not hear Abdulrahman being called a 'bomb chucker' but he heard about it. He denied calling Abdulrahman a 'bomb chucker' or 'Osama Bin Laden'. He also denied hearing Troy Wallace calling Abdulrahman names over the public address system.

Ponting said that he told other employees to stop the name calling after Abdulrahman told him about the racial slurs but he said that employees usually accepted the atmosphere on the floor.

In its decision the Tribunal said it was 'comfortably' satisfied that the name-calling occurred in workplace as alleged by Abdulrahman.

Open and frank manner

It said Ponting's oral evidence contradicted his written statement, and the written statements and oral evidence of Wallace and Primmer. However it preferred Ponting's oral evidence because it was 'given in person under oath in an open and frank manner'.

The Tribunal ordered Toll Express to pay Abdulrahman $25,000 and to pay his costs.

Full text of case

Abdulrahman v Toll Pty Ltd trading as Toll Express [2006] NSWADT 221

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