A FORMER Asda worker has been awarded more than £60,000 in compensation after an employment tribunal ruled she had been unfairly dismissed and made subject to harassment on the grounds of her race.

The tribunal, held in Manchester, found Svitlana Henderson had been constructively unfairly dismissed from the Adsa store in Accrington, and had been harassed on the grounds of her race during her employment.

The tribunal determined the harassment amounted to a lengthy campaign over a period of 14 months between 2018 and 2019, which had a profound effect on the mental health of Mrs Henderson, who had worked for the company for 16 years.

During the tribunal it was heard that Mrs Henderson, who is of Ukrainian descent, was subject to harassment by two managers in positions of authority, and the majority of the harassment took place behind closed doors.

Mrs Henderson began working for Asda as a sales assistant at the Blackburn store in 2003.

In November 2013 she was transferred to the Accrington store where she worked on the date code team with Mark Bates as her manager.

Five years later in May 2018 Mrs Henderson raised complaints of bullying with her second line manager, Fiona Barrington, who spoke with Mr Bates, but no further action was taken.

A year later on May 8, 2019, Mrs Henderson was challenged by colleague Fozia Khan after she was seen wearing black trainers with a pink sole, despite Asda having a policy whereby it required employees to wear “dark, clean, full shoes/boots”.

On that date, the tribunal heard the claimant was working from a six-hour shift from 6am until 12pm and was entitled to a 20 minute break.

Mrs Henderson took her break at approximately 10am but was then challenged by Ms Khan about the duration of her break.

The following day she was working in the chilled department with manager Mark Bates and another colleague Elaine Martin.

At some point during this shift, Mr Bates shouted at Mrs Henderson: “What time do you call this?” and then made remarks as to the length of time it took her to carry out a task.

There were also previous times between May 2018 and 2019 where her completion of tasks had been challenged or scrutinised, but Mrs Henderson considered this incident as the final straw.

Following the last incident, the tribunal was told Mrs Henderson became upset and went to the toilet and then left the store, went to her car, wrote her resignation note and handed it in.

The resignation note said she wished to terminate her employment immediately as she was unhappy with the recent change in management and the style of communication, and she was unable and unwilling to continue with her employment.

On May 21, 2019, Mrs Henderson was informed a senior director for people would investigate her complaints, with Lisa Fullalove, the manager of people, acknowledging the issues on May 29, but noting that investigations had not been completed prior to her leaving her employment.

She was then contacted by the deputy store manager and was also contacted by the HR department who asked her to reconsider her decision.

However, Mrs Henderson said she suffered pain under the management of Mr Bates and Ms Khan and made reference to the last straw doctrine, the shoe incident, nasty comments by Mr Bates, workloads that were impossible to complete, being prevented from going on breaks and being subject to unlawful treatment.

She also said she was the only non-British national working in the team and claimed she was treated differently because English was not her first language, and because she was a foreigner with a different work ethic and attitude to management.

She claims Mr Bates spoke to her in a demeaning and disrespectful manner because of her cultural work ethic and subservient - prepared to do tasks without question - attitude towards management, but did not treat other British colleagues, with different ethics and attitudes, in the same way.

Employment Judge Jennifer Ainscough said: “Mark Bates admitted in cross examination he would tell people what to do in order to get the job done, and admitted he had no problem with Mrs Henderson provided she did as she was told.

“He nor Asda did not provide any evidence he treated all members of the team in this way and the tribunal finds Mark Bates felt comfortable challenging the claimant because he knew English was not her first language and she was unable to adequately respond.

“Mark Bates also knew the claimant was Ukrainian and her cultural work ethic made her subservient to her managers.”

After the completion of the first part of the tribunal hearing in August 2020 Mrs Henderson was prescribed antidepressant medication by her GP and was also sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

The tribunal, which was remedied last week, concluded that Mrs Henderson lost her confidence and was now in a vulnerable position as she had seen her 15 and a half years in her role at Asda as a job for life.

It also found Asda was acting in a way that was not in accordance with the continuation of her contract, and Mr Bates and Ms Khan did not follow performance procedures in a way which would be expected at the organisation.

It was noted the reason Mr Bates targeted Mrs Henderson between January 2018 and May 2019 was related to her nationality.

Employment Judge Ainscough added: “The impact of the unlawful treatment upon Mrs Henderson has only recently manifested itself on receipt of our judgment.

“Mrs Henderson has realised the true extent of what has happened to her. This has unfortunately led to a significant decline in her health, for which she now receives medication and is awaiting treatment.

“As a result of her ill health she is unable to work, and her current mental state arises directly and naturally from the unlawful acts of discrimination.

“From the evidence we have seen and heard, there is no suggestion that she was already suffering in this way or that other factors have led to her mental state.

“She is currently focussing on getting through each day and is unable to work. This was a campaign of lengthy harassment, the impact of which has been profound.”

Asda was ordered to pay Mrs Henderson £40,000 for injury to feelings; £8,355.06 in interest; a basic award of £3,768.30; and a compensatory award of £10,886.20, totalling £63,009.56.