DWP ordered to pay former trainee £400k over racism and ageism

Damien Gayle
Photograph: Kirsty O’Connor/PA

A woman is to receive nearly £400,000 from the Department for Work and Pensions after a judge ruled that her colleagues there had deliberately created a “hostile environment” of racism and ageism that forced her out of work.

Anne Giwa-Amu was singled out and humiliated by colleagues, who violated her dignity through the use of racist language. When she reported her concerns, managers breached her confidence by speaking to staff about it.

Eventually, after more than six months signed off work, and after having brought grievance proceedings over her concerns about harassment, Giwa-Amu was unlawfully dismissed by the DWP, despite her being in the process of bringing an employment tribunal case.

Judge Howden Evans, sitting at Cardiff magistrates court, ordered the DWP to pay Giwa-Amui more than £386,000 in compensation, including £42,800 for injury to feelings, which is only awarded in the most serious cases, BBC News reported.

In a judgment originally handed down in December 2018, Howden Evans said the tribunal accepted that Giwa-Amu was the victim of discrimination and harassment based on her age.

The 59-year-old, who has both Nigerian and Welsh heritage, was one of nine trainees starting work as administrative officers at the DWP branch in Caerphilly in February 2017. She was the only trainee who was not white, and the only one aged over 50.

The court found that one fellow trainee had violated Giwa-Amu’s dignity by using racist language in front of her, and by denouncing her as racist for observing that it often rains in Wales; another humiliated her and discriminated against her by exclaiming that he had “touched [her] bum”; and that senior members of staff had victimised Giwa-Amu by relaying her confidential concerns about her treatment back to colleagues without her permission.

In a parting shot, as Giwa-Amu left on her last day of work before being signed off sick, after having already complained about the way she had been treated, one colleague said to her: “See you Monday,” to which another replied: “If she comes back.”

Giwa-Amu told BBC News that the DWP were “paying lip service to the equality legislation”. None of the staff involved in the case have been disciplined, and some have been promoted, her lawyer said.

A DWP spokesperson said: “Racism is totally unacceptable and action will be taken against any staff found to be expressing such views. We take the judgment and the circumstances of this case very seriously.”