Student, 19, sacked by Chinese restaurant for being WHITE wins £5,000 race discrimination case
- David O'Neill's hours dropped after new manager was brought in
By Leon Watson
Last updated at 2:53 PM on 21st February 2012
A teenage student was sacked from his first ever job as a waiter in an upmarket Chinese restaurant - for being white.
David O'Neill won a race discrimination battle against the Ocean Dragon in Birmingham's Chinese Quarter following a year-long fight for compensation.
The 19-year-old, from the Selly Oak, successfully sued the diner after his hours were drastically cut by a new Chinese manager who handed his shifts to workers from China.
David O'Neill won his legal fight against a Chinese restaurant after claiming he had been sacked for being white
Mr O'Neill, a first-year law student at Staffordshire University, won his lengthy battle after representing himself at a Birmingham employment tribunal.
Mr O'Neill was awarded total compensation of £5,322.89.
But he is yet to receive a penny from the restaurant owners - and a High Court appointed bailiff will now be sent in to recover compensation if the Ocean Dragon fails to comply.
Mr O'Neill started working at the Ocean Dragon, an upmarket Arcadian Centre restaurant, in May 2010 as a part-time waiter under a white manager, his first-ever job.
He said: 'From the end of October 2010, a new Chinese manager was appointed as general manager who cut my hours dramatically and those of other white staff, until I was given no hours whatsoever after November 2010.
'At first I was working around 25 hours a week, but soon it dropped to 15, then to 10, then to six, then eventually to nothing.
The Ocean Dragon, in Birmingham's Chinese quarter, drastically cut Mr O'Neill's hours and handed his shifts to workers from China
'Nothing really changed in how I was being treated, they were just really sneaky about how they went about it.
'Although I kept contacting the manager, she kept informing me that there were no hours available but she would be in touch.'
Mr O'Neill said he realised he was being discriminated against on ethnic grounds after new Chinese staff were recruited to take over his hours - despite assurances from the manager that he would be given more work.
Mr O'Neill, pictured here at his home in Selly Oak, Birmingham, said he was forced to sell his car after losing the job
He went down to the restaurant on several occasions to ask for more shifts but said he was constantly 'fobbed off' with excuses as to why he couldn't have more hours.
Mr O'Neill smelled a rat when he found out that one of the Chinese employees had racked up a 60-hour week, while the manager was telling Mr O'Neill she had no hours to give him.
Another employee told him: 'You've got no chance of getting any more hours - they're all going to the new staff.'
After the remaining non-Chinese staff were squeezed out, Mr O'Neill ended up being the only white member of staff in the restaurant, and was left feeling frustrated when some in-store signage was changed from English to Chinese.
Despite his efforts to tackle the company head-on, Mr O'Neill said they repeatedly ignored his concerns.
He added: 'I sent a letter of complaint to the company outlining my concerns and they denied all knowledge of me even working at the company.
'As the company seemed to completely disregard and push my grievances aside, I felt I had no option but to begin legal proceedings.'
Mr O'Neill was forced to sell his car after losing his job meant that he couldn't afford to pay his costly insurance premium.
He said: 'It was frustrating, really. I did everything with the car, and without a job I couldn't afford the £3,500 to keep it.'
Unable to afford a solicitor, the bright teen chose to represent himself during the lengthy tribunal service.
'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?"
'I was almost ready to drop it, but they told me to just keep it up.'
But he is yet to receive a penny - and a High Court appointed bailiff will now be sent in to recover compensation if the Ocean Dragon - fails to comply.
If the restaurant fails to stump up the cash, bailiffs will seize property from the restaurant itself to cover the debt.
Mr O'Neill said: 'If it does get to that, I want to sit outside the restaurant and watch it happen.'
In legal proceedings which lasted from last May until December, David sued for discrimination, unfair dismissal, failure to issue a contract of employment, and unauthorised deductions.
No comment was available from the restaurant today.