A worker for Equinix Ireland who was dismissed for posting "racist" content to a company chat has been given a €6,500 ($7,800) payout for unfair dismissal.

Data center technician Jevgeni Rykov posted a youTube video containing the 'N' word in a Microsoft Teams group provided by Equinix in June 2020, and was dismissed. Now, Ireland's Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has found that the dismissal process was flawed and unfair, so the worker has been given the money - but not had his job restored, according to a report in the Irish Times.

Not such SuperHappyFunTimes

During the pandemic Rykov's boss set up an informal Microsoft Teams group for about 15 workers, to encourage them and give them space to "have some fun". The group was called SuperHappyFunTimes.

On June 4th, Rykov, who had been with Equinix since June 2017, posted a YouTube video to the group, which contained racist and offensive components. Fifteen days later, on June 19, Rykov was dismissed for gross misconduct.

The WRC adjudicator John Harraghy agreed that the post was clearly out of order, saying it “had contained components which could be deemed to be racist in nature and offensive”.

The one black member in the team told the WRC hearing that the “wording, images and stereotypes used in the video were offensive” and it made him “uncomfortable”.

When the team leader saw the content he got Rykov to remove it, and Rykov was suspended pending an investigation. The HR manager and the data center manager both looked at the content; the HR manager told the WRC hearing that it “was racially motivated, derogatory to different nationals and particularly derogatory to black communities”, while the data center manager said it referred to ethnic minorities and used the 'N' word repeatedly.

Rykov had no previous disciplinary record, and he told a disciplinary meeting that he didn't see the video as racist, and had posted it because he didn't realize people would be offended by it. He acknowledged that others could see it as racist.

Rykov's lawyers argued that dismissal was disproportionate, explaining that the video was presented from the outset as a joke and a parody. They pointed out that it was only visible for 20 minutes, and could have been seen by only a maximum of five people. They also complained that Rykov had no appeal process.

Rykov said working for Equinix was the best job he had ever had, and he wanted to stay there.

The data center industry has been criticized for lack of diversity - with Oracle sued in 2020 because its staff is "90 percent white" despite a verbal commitment to diversity. In 2020, Facebook had to deal with racism when a noose was found at a US construction site. Amazon has seen a number of controversies over accusations of discrimination internally.

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