Maori man sues QLD employer for discrimination, given ‘black guy repellent’ sunscreen

By @chelean on
Palm trees line the man-made beach known as South Bank beach in Brisbane October 19, 2003.
Palm trees line the man-made beach known as South Bank beach in Brisbane October 19, 2003. Reuters/John Pryke

A Maori man has sued his Queensland employer for racial discrimination. McDuff Tupetagi claims he was regularly mocked as a “black fella” at Rainbow Beach Adventure Company and even given a can of “black guy repellent” when he asked for sunscreen.

Brisbane Times reports that Tupetagi has filed a complaint to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commissions against the tourism operator, saying the manager and the staff discriminated him because of his skin colour. He said the discrimination he suffered had forced him to take sick leave for “mental distress.”

There was allegedly an incident in 2016 when he asked for a sunshade over the area where he worked on the company’s 4WDs. He asked for it twice, and in the second instance, his boss’ manager, who was named “Byron,” apparently denied his request, telling him something “to the effect of ‘because you’re black.’”

“By Byron’s words, Byron imputed to the complainant that he was less or not susceptible to sunburn and skin damage from the sun because of his skin colour,” Tupetagi’s complaint reads.

The incident in November 2017 was the final straw for Tupetagi. He said his colleagues told him there was “a present” left for him in his car. The present was an empty bottle of sunscreen covered in yellow tape with the label “Black Guy Reppllent” [sic] and “Caution! Only use on blacks.”

He reported the incident to the same manager who refused his requests for a sunshade. The alleged perpetrator, a colleague named Joel Mahon, told Tupetagi that he was sent to him home to apologise. But even as he was supposed to apologise, Mahon allegedly told Tupetagi that he “shouldn’t be here.”

The company admitted that the can with the offensive messages was left in the New Zealand-born employee’s car, but it was done as a “practical joke.” Apparently, the colleague who left the canister had been friends with the complainant for eight years. The company said in court documents that it had no knowledge of staff calling Tupetagi as “black fella.”

Tupetagi is seeking damages for hurt and humiliation. He said he now requires “extensive and ongoing psychiatric intervention” for a variety of medical issues.

In a statement to news.com.au, Rainbow Beach Adventure Company’s parent company, Website Travel, called the man who left the canister “abhorrent and totally unacceptable.”

General manager Barry Downes said, “The employee has apologised for his offensive behaviour. His conduct in this matter in no way reflects the culture or beliefs of our company, managers and staff. We promptly addressed the matter with the employee and he deeply regrets his actions.

“While it’s disappointing that the damage has been done to what was previously a close and long-standing friendship between these two employees, the matter will be before the Commission in the coming weeks and it would be inappropriate to make further comment.”

Join the Discussion