Unite secures £95,000 compensation for Wakefield factory worker who suffered physical and racial abuse at work

Unite Legal Services helped secure £95,000 compensation for a West Yorkshire factory worker, who was subjected to physical and racial abuse at work and has since been diagnosed with PTSD.

The 58-year-old Unite member from Wakefield - who prefers not to be named - was forced to take early retirement in April 2022 from his role as a palletiser/quality control operator at Ball Beverage and Packaging, after being subjected to racial harassment, culminating in a physical assault against him.

The now-retired worker, who had worked at Ball Beverage and Packaging in Wakefield since 2006, alleges that the nature of some of the racial abuse involved press cuttings from newspapers. These press cuttings, distributed anonymously around the factory shop floor, would reference a person of colour and insert the Unite member’s name with racist comments such as “send them all back home”.

Furthermore, racist graffiti was also written on the toilet walls, notice boards and on the man’s toolbox.

The Unite member was subjected to this treatment from 2007 and it continued throughout his employment. Despite raising the matter with HR, his team leader, shift manager, the plant manager, and highlighting the behaviour of one individual, no appropriate action was taken.

In August 2021, this individual physically assaulted him at work. The man, who was subjected to racist verbal abuse throughout his ordeal, had his shirt ripped and suffered bruising to his neck. Following the incident, his team leader discouraged him from reporting both the physical and verbal attack.

However, witnesses reported the incident to HR, leading to the perpetrator's dismissal from the company.

Following the assault, he remained absent from work for around six months due to psychological injuries. Despite healthcare professionals' expert advice supporting his need for continued sick leave, his employer, unhappy and at the prospect of his ongoing absence from work on further sick pay, terminated his employment on the grounds of "capability".

With the support of his Unite trade union rep, he successfully challenged this decision, leading to his employment being terminated on grounds of ill health. This decision enabled him to access his pension and retire.

Unite Legal Services helped the former factory worker secure £95,000 compensation. As a member of Unite, he kept 100 per cent of his compensation.

The experience has been incredibly distressing and has had serious ramifications for his mental health. In 2022, he was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The Unite member said: “Unite gave me invaluable support and legal advice throughout my case. My solicitor was not only incredibly professional, but showed great understanding and empathy towards me during one of the most stressful and distressing times of my life.

“Most of all, she trusted, supported, and believed in me during a time when my employer saw me more as an inconvenience and behaved in a very uncaring and dismissive manner. The company showed little or no regard for my welfare and well-being.

“I’m now able to move on with my life and concentrate on my mental health and wellbeing, whilst closing the door on the worst chapter of my working life.”