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Employee wins partial victory on harassment in pot plant case

A Westminster City Council employee has won a partial victory at an employment tribunal in a case that arose over a disputed pot plant.

Benyam Kenbata took legal action after a colleague put the plant on her desk, blocking his view.

He complained this was racial segregation and discrimination as it “restricted the ease with which he could hold discussions with colleagues”.

Westminster’s human resources department said the problem was simply the plant’s growth and no racial issues were involved.

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In 2015 Mr Kenbata made 29 allegations of direct discrimination, racial harassment and victimisation to the London Central Employment Tribunal, which ruled against him and ordered him to pay £10,000 costs.

He won only on a complaint that a discussion about the complaint with his boss should have happened in private rather than in front of colleagues.

A judge has now said the case should be reassessed as the discussion in an open plan office was racial harassment.

But the tribunal said Mr Kenbata should still pay £10,000 towards the council’s costs as he had acted unreasonably over his other claims.

A Westminster spokesperson said: “We are pleased that the tribunal agreed that there was no foundation for a claim of direct race discrimination made against the individual.

“We note the Tribunal’s finding that there was a minor act of harassment, albeit, categorised as a one-off incident which fell close to the bottom of the scale in terms of injury to feelings. We set the highest standards in treating employees fairly.”

Mark Smulian

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