Older black maid in Catholic boys’ school wins £ 6,280 payout for ‘voodoo’ commentary

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A cleaning lady at a Catholic boys’ school paid out £ 6,280 after a colleague made a racist remark about her ‘use of voodoo’.

Annmarie Jenkins-Hurrell, an elderly black woman of West Indian descent, was subjected to the ‘demeaning and offensive’ remark of a janitor at The Campion School in Hornchurch, London.

An employment court heard that colleagues of Ms. Jenkins-Hurrell, who worked in high school for five years, told her they were “afraid” of her.

A colleague, a janitor, then asked ‘what are you going to do, work your voodoo?’.

After she complained, the school rejected her complaint, prompting her to resign.

Now the cleaner has been paid after a tribunal found she had been treated unfairly.

Annmarie Jenkins-Hurrell, an elderly black woman of West Indian descent, was subjected to the ‘demeaning and offensive’ remark of a janitor at The Campion School (pictured), in Hornchurch, London

What is Voodoo?

Voodoo – also spelled Vodou and Voudon – is a religion that originated in Africa.

Although its exact origin is unknown, it is believed to have originated in the West African nation of Benin and is said to have evolved from the ancient traditions of ancestor worship.

In West African Voodoo, the creator is known as Mawu or Mahu and is feminine in shape.

However, Voodoo has no scripture or world authority – and therefore practices and beliefs differ from community to community.

However, it is often community-oriented with an emphasis on individual experience, empowerment and responsibility.

In the Americas and the Caribbean, it is thought to be a combination of different African, Catholic and Native American traditions.

Louisiana Voodoo and Haitian Vodou are two forms that developed in areas where slaves from West Africa were brought to America.

Bondye is the supreme creator in Haitian Vodou, with deities called lwa.

The wider Voodoo religion is widely misunderstood in the Western world – something scholars say is based on racism dating back to the slave trade.

During this period it became taboo, with religion being dismissed as superstition and voodoo priests classified as witch doctors.

Hollywood has also been accused of ‘inventing’ practices such as ‘Voodoo dolls’ where pins are placed in a doll while the person they are meant to represent feels actual pain.

Experts say such dolls are used in many cultures but are not prominent in the religion of Voodoo.

Source: Live Science

Ms. Jenkins-Hurrell worked as a high school cleaner in London and sixth grade for nearly five years from January 2014.

A virtual hearing at the East London Tribunal Center learned that Mrs. Jenkins-Hurrell was the only one of the eleven cleaners to be black.

The tribunal heard that Ms Jenkins-Hurrell and Christopher Conner, the site manager, had a conversation about washing her cleaning rags in the fall of 2017.

Mr. Conner had arranged for another member of staff to wash all the clothes, for which she would be paid extra.

But Ms Jenkins-Hurrell said she normally undertook this herself and questioned the additional compensation plans.

The cleaning lady then told him she expected her clothes to be washed and clean by Monday morning.

She told the tribunal that in response, Paul Day, the janitor, said, “Oh, so if you don’t get clean clothes on Monday, what are you going to do, do you work voodoo?”

The tribunal ruled that Mr Day had made the comment, saying, “Referring to an elderly black woman of West Indian descent who is working her voodoo is an unwelcome racially insulting comment,” it said.

The comment had both the purpose and effect of violation [her] dignity and was both demeaning and insulting. ‘

But it wasn’t until at least six months later that Mrs. Jenkins-Hurrell made the racist remark to her bosses.

She also claimed she was banned from additional shifts as the only black female cleaning lady.

In May 2018, at a meeting to discuss her complaints, headteacher Keith Williams was found to have behaved “ hostile and intimidating ” towards the cleaner.

Following this meeting, Ms. Jenkins-Hurrell wrote a formal letter of complaint to the board of directors, which led to an investigation opened by assistant headteacher Georgina Peters, a former police officer and science teacher at the school.

This investigation found no indications of intimidation or bullying.

However, the tribunal ruled that this investigation was “fundamentally unfair” and “totally inappropriate.”

Ms Jenkins-Hurrell subsequently stepped down in November 2018.

In her letter of resignation, she said, ‘I am writing to formally submit my resignation. I feel like this is the only option after the outcome of my complaint and the ongoing stress the school has put on me. ‘

The tribunal said, “(She) expressed displeasure with Mr. Williams’ attitude towards her during this trial and alleged that she was racially discriminated against, bullied and victimized and that the school had unlawfully withheld her wages.”

It ruled that while Mr. Day’s comments amounted to harassment, she had left it too late for her claim to be successful in that regard.

However, it concluded that she was the victim of constructive unfair dismissal due to the poor handling of her complaints.

As a result, she has now received £ 6,281.57.

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