Irish man wins racist claim after boss ‘dances like an elf’ in front of him

Jonathan Kelly said his line manager imitated his accent and performed an offensive dance, and an employment court said he won his case over victimization and racism race

East London Court Center
The incident was deeply offensive, an East London Court heard

An Irish man has won a job court after his boss ‘mocked’ his voice and ‘danced like an elf’ in front of him.

Jonathan Kelly works at the Oriental Hoo Hing supermarket store, in Romford, in the company’s warehouse.

He told the court that during an argument, his manager, Michael Montgomery, imitated his accent and ‘shaken his head and moved his shoulder from side to side’.

East London Court Center heard Kelly “likened it to someone ‘dancing like an elf'”.

The controversy arose when Kelly spoke to Montgomery on August 5, 2020, when his co-worker was nearly hit by heavy items that weren’t properly stored.

Kelly avoided a crash at the last moment, then went to speak to his manager.

The court heard that Kelly, speaking quickly, told Montgomery that the items “could do some damage to the poor girl”.

An Irish employee at Hoo Hing said an encounter mocked his legacy


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Kelly said that in response, Montgomery shook his head and moved his shoulders from side to side, saying the words “Well maybe if you slow down I can understand what you’re trying to say.”

Kelly insists Montgomery did this in an Irish accent meant to mock himself.

Montgomery said he was born in County Antrim in Northern Ireland, but has lived in the UK since, and that he is using his old accent, not mocking Kelly.

The court said: “There was no trace of an Irish accent in any of Mr Montgomery’s evidence, but he told us that, when he was with family and friends, he occasionally spoke with a Northern accent. My Ireland.”

The court said: “We accept the plaintiff’s evidence that the way Mr Montgomery spoke was mocking the plaintiff and that the accent he used was mocking a southern Irish accent.

“Plaintiff asserts that the bobbing and movement of Mr. Montgomery’s head and shoulders … is a mockery of a stereotypical Irish character.”

Employment judge David Massarella said Montgomery wanted to defuse the situation by making jokes, but added: “Unfortunately, the kind of humor he chose to use was crude and insensitive at best.”

The court sided with Kelly on allegations of racial harassment and victimization.

Another day the court will decide on compensation for Kelly.

Hoo Hing has been approached for comment.

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