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Racially abused Sikh awarded damages in New Zealand

March 10, 2015 17:15 IST

A Sikh student has been awarded $45,000 (Rs 20.5 lakh) in damages by a rights tribunal in New Zealand for racial harassment and humiliation he suffered at the hands of his Indian-origin employers.

Satnam Singh told the Human Rights Tribunal he suffered racial abuse, culminating in a physical assault, while employed for two months at Scorpion Liquor in Mount Roskill, a suburban area in the city of Auckland, The New Zealand Herald reported.

Singh was also paid less than minimum wage, earning between $6 to 7 an hour. Store manager Shane Singh and his mother Raj Devi, who owns the business, did not respond to the claim and took no part in proceedings.

The decision of the tribunal said Singh took the part-time job in January 2012 after coming to New Zealand on a student visa.

During his two months at Scorpion Liquor, Shane Singh frequently made racial remarks. He also made comments about Singh’s long hair, a requirement for his Sikh religion.

On March 6, 2012, Shane Singh hit the student on the head with a clipboard, knocking off his turban and a cap he wore on top. He then told Satnam Singh: “If I see you again you’ll lose your turban and your teeth.”

Satnam Singh did not return to the store after the incident.

He told the tribunal he felt angry, distressed and belittled by the abuse, and afraid that Shane Singh and his friends would attack him, which led to depression and thoughts of suicide.

He cut his hair and beard and started hiding his turban under a cap to avoid abuse, causing anger amongst his family. The tribunal found Singh had suffered hurtful and offensive racial harassment.

The defendants were ordered to pay $45,000 in damages for humiliation and loss of dignity. They were also ordered to undergo training in their responsibilities under the Human Rights Act, pay $3,750 in legal costs, and a restraining order was made to prevent Shane Singh from continuing the abuse.

In a separate decision by the Employment Relations Authority, Scorpion Liquor was ordered to pay Singh wage arrears of $3,417.12 plus interest at 5 per cent and a penalty of $1,000.

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