Whiter Than White
There have been several employment tribunal decisions in recent months where it seems that one or two words led to a successful claim of discrimination.
This example, however, shows that words which in one case can cause offence, but in another, can be innocuous and not discriminatory.
A black manager working on the high-speed rail project between London and Birmingham sued for discrimination after claiming that the phrase “whiter than white” was racist.
Sharon Goodison alleged that her boss’s use of the expression in reference to the project was offensive because it implied that “white is good, black is bad”. Goodison, a compliance manager, told an employment tribunal in London that the phrase has had racial undertones.
Her boss apologised to Goodison for any offence caused.
The tribunal dismissed Goodison’s claim of discrimination after finding that her boss’s use of the expression was not related to race but an “apposite” comment regarding the behaviour of HS2 in relation to its contractual obligations.
The phrase is thought to have originated in a Shakespeare poem and has become understood in modern parlance to mean being above criticism.
In 2021, Goodison’s boss was understood to have said that “HS2 aren’t whiter than white here” in relation to the company’s adherence to the terms of a contract.” In a meeting with Day, Goodison said that while she understood the point being made the “not whiter than white” phrase had racial connotations.
She raised the possibility that her boss had shown unconscious racial bias, to which her boss responded: “I was talking about HS2 not complying with a contract. It had nothing to discrimination.
The Graham Agency, keeping you informed.