A black manager at HS2 sued for discrimination after claiming her boss was being racist by using the phrase “more white than white.”
Sharon Goodison complained that her boss’s use of the stock expression was offensive because it implied that “white is good, black is bad”.
He told an employment tribunal that the phrase, which dates back to Shakespeare’s time, has had “racial overtones throughout my life.”
Ms. Goodison even warned manager Laura Day that a police officer had been disciplined for saying sowhich led her to apologize for any offense caused.
The court has now thrown out the discrimination claim, ruling that Ms Day’s use of the expression was not related to race, but was instead an ‘appropriate’ comment on HS2’s behaviour.
Sharon Goodison is suing for discrimination saying her boss was being racist when he used the phrase ‘whiter than white’
The HS2 site at West Hyde near Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire
‘Whiter than white’: the origins of the phrase
There are two theories as to the origin of the phrase “whiter than white.”
Theory one: It is a modified phrase cuttered by William Shakespeare.
Shakespeare’s 1593 poem Venus and Adonis tells the story of Venus, a goddess of love, and her seduction of Adonis.
The poem reads: ‘Who sees this true love in her bare bed / Showing the sheets? a shade whiter than white / But, when his gluttonous eye has fed / Do his other agents aim with delight?’
In this context, the phrase seems to refer to someone who is pure and honest, but note that the phrase has changed slightly over time.
Theory two: It’s what it says on the tin: the color is whiter than the color white.
The Oxford English Dictionary notes that the phrase became a popular term after the 1920s advertising slogan for Persil washing powder.
In this context, the phrase literally means that clothing or linen washed with the powder comes out pristine and ‘whiter than white’.
However, it was discovered that the company forced her out of her job by taking too much time to investigate her complaints.
‘Whiter than white’ is believed to have its origins in Shakespeare’s poem Venus and Adonis and has, over time, been defined as pure or honest.
The Oxford English Dictionary notes that it became a popular term following the 1920s advertising slogan for Persil washing powder.
The court in central London was told that the compliance manager, Ms Goodison, worked for the high-speed rail company from April 2017 to August 2021.
However, she was unhappy with her role, likening it to being with “an abusive boyfriend” who “had bullied, disrespected, racialized, disrespected, and disempowered me.”
The court heard that in July 2021, Ms Day used the phrase “HS2 ain’t whiter than white here” in connection with how the company was failing to meet the terms of a contract.
In a one-on-one meeting with Ms. Day, Ms. Goodison said that while she understood the point Ms. Day was making, the phrase “no whiter than white” had racial connotations and had shocked her.
Ms Goodison told the court: ‘White is good, black is bad.
‘[The phrase] it has had racial connotations for me throughout my life. I told him he had to be very careful. A police officer was charged with misconduct.
The court heard Ms Goodison ask whether there was a possibility that Ms Day had unconscious bias, and Ms Day said: ‘I don’t know. She was talking about HS2 not honoring a contract. She had nothing to do with race.
In another incident, Ms. Day told Ms. Goodison that she had used a “hostile” tone with her during a meeting.
In court, Ms Goodison described this as a “micro-aggression” as she felt Ms Day was calling her an “aggressive black woman”.
The hearing was told that the compliance manager filed complaints about his alleged mistreatment at work, but the investigation dragged on for nine months.
She said this led to “high levels of anxiety, weight loss and trouble sleeping.”
Ms. Goodison resigned without notice in August 2021.
In his resignation letter, he said: ‘You should note that I am resigning in response to a repudiation contract breach by HS2 detailed in the formal and informal complaints I have raised. Therefore, I consider myself dismissed constructively.
Ms. Goodison took HS2 to court alleging racial discrimination, harassment and victimization, as well as constructive unfair dismissal.
The panel rejected the racial claim, finding that she was “overly critical” of Ms Day.
On the ‘more white than white’ complaint, labor judge Jillian Brown said: ‘Ms Day used the phrase ‘white than white’ in describing the [company’s] performance of your contract.
‘The phrase was not related to [Mrs Goodison]nor to anyone’s race, but to the [company’s] breach of its contractual obligations.
‘While [Mrs Goodison] held that the phrase reflected “white is good and black is bad”, the Court found that Ms. Day did not mention or imply that “black”.
‘The Court decided that Ms Day’s phrase was appropriate to describe the [company’s] contractual performance, in the sense that she was saying the [company] he was not, in himself, without blemish or fault.’
The court also dismissed her complaint that Ms Day’s description of her as “hostile” was discrimination.
However, it ruled that HS2 had taken too long to complete the grievance process and awarded it £7,647 in constructive wrongful dismissal compensation.