A company founded by a British woman and her Australian husband has been ordered to pay the Australian man $170,000 on the grounds of racial discrimination after he alleged she viewed Australians as an “inferior race”.
Duncan Bendall, a businessman who grew up in Sydney, founded a company, The Female Social Network in 2016 with his wife Fiona Bendall while they were living in Sydney.
However their marriage began to break down after they returned to London last year, until Mr Bendall was eventually sacked in August for “gross misconduct”.
He took his case to the tribunal alleging he had been unfairly dismissed and discriminated against based on his race and sex.
As the relationship deteriorated Mrs Bendall became “increasingly abusive and bullying”, Mr Bendall said.
Mr Bendall told the tribunal he had been victimised, with the board forcing through a change in share holdings from 50-50 to 51-49 in favour of Mrs Bendall in order to market the company as female-owned.
The company has since been placed into voluntary administration.
“Fiona told them (the board) that I would be compliant as long as the investment comes in,” Mr Bendall told the tribunal, according to The Times.
“I believe the optics were not as good as introducing a male founder to prospective investors, especially one as a plain-talking Australian, compared to an English woman.”
Mrs Bendall, who was nominated for the 2019 NSW Business Woman of the Year Award, allegedly gave her husband just 12 hours to object to the proposal while he was in Australia for Anzac Day.
During the argument, she sent him an email which read, “I hate Australian mentality and you have it droves … And DO NOT say you are a founder in MY business MY efforts ever again You Leech – you don’t even believe in women or have ever struck your neck out.”
In August he learned his bags had been packed and he was being kicked out of the London home they shared, which was also the company’s office.
“It is clear that we are done … Your belongings will be packed … Ed and Praveen will meet with you to discuss TFSN and the way forwards,” Mrs Bendall texted her husband.
Mr Bendall told the tribunal running the business from their family home had put a strain on their relationship, with staff often drinking and smoking at the house after work.
“Fiona had an almost exclusively female team — there was one male who worked as a sales intern — and they got into the habit of staying up late drinking excessive amounts of alcohol in the family home,” he told the tribunal.
“Many of the colleagues were smokers and used to stand outside the house smoking directly under the bedroom window of my and Fiona’s 15-year-old daughter. This used to distress me and I would ask them to stop.”
He said it was one of these altercations that was cited as justification for his dismissal.
“She kept treating Australia as an inferior race, despite living there for 15 years,” he said.
The judgement dated 17 August 2020 found in favour of Mr Bendall’s complaints of unfair dismissal and race-related harassment. However his complaints of direct discrimination on the grounds of sex, as well as race and sex-related harassment were dismissed.
The Female Social Network was ordered to pay Mr Bendall a basic award of £7612.50 plus £86,444 in compensation and £2000 for injury to feelings and another total leading to a fee of more than £97,106 ($173,000).
An earlier judgment on 22 July found that the complaint of marriage discrimination was struck out with “no reasonable prospect of success”.