A law student has won thousands of pounds in compensation from a Chinese restaurant after it sacked him for being white.
David O’Neill had been working as a waiter to help pay for his degree but was sacked when workers were brought in from China.
He has now won a £5,000 pay-out after it found he had been discriminated against.
Mr O’Neill started working at the Ocean Dragon restaurant, in the centre of Birmingham, in May 2010. When a Chinese manager took over in October that year, he cut Mr O’Neill’s shifts from 25 hours a week to six – and eventually to nothing.
The student asked for more work, but he was ‘fobbed off’ and told there was none.
Signs inside the restaurant’s staff areas had been changed into Chinese so he could not understand them.
The final straw came when he found out that one of the Chinese employees had racked up a 60-hour week. He was told by a fellow employee: ‘You’ve got no chance of getting any more hours – they’re all going to the new staff.’
Mr O’Neill, who studies at Staffordshire University, said: ‘I was quite happy to work alongside the Chinese staff even though I was the only non-Chinese employee.
'But the manager obviously wasn’t happy working with me.
'I felt I was being discriminated against because I was white. I was frustrated, angry and upset. They were treating me in a manner which was clearly racist.’
When he made a written complaint to the restaurant, it denied all knowledge of him ever working there.
By this time the student had to sell his car because he was so short of money.
'They seemed to completely disregard and push my grievances aside,’ he said. ‘I felt I had no option but to begin legal proceedings.’
Referring to his inexperience with legal matters, the student added: ‘I was improvising, really. I had no idea what I was doing.
'My family were helping me through it, but I did keep thinking – is this really going to work?
'At one point, I was almost ready to drop it, but my family told me to keep it up.’
Mr O’Neill’s hard work paid off this week when he was awarded compensation of £5,322.89 by a tribunal in Birmingham.
The judgment stated that he had been ‘discriminated against’ and ‘subjected to less favourable treatment’ because of his race and had been ‘subject to an unfair dismissal’. The payout included £2,000 for injury to his feelings.
However, the restaurant is refusing to pay up and a High Court-appointed bailiff is expected to be sent in to recover the money.
Mr O’Neill said: ‘I have had no contact whatsoever from them since the judgment.
'Some people seem to think they are above the law.
'How can they still think it is fine not to pay the court?’
After his success in the case the student, from the Selly Oak area of Birmingham, has decided he would like to specialise in employment law.
'I want to help other people in the same situation that I was in.’
No one from the restaurant was available for comment yesterday.
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