Do you ever find it hard to tell what’s a racist term you should avoid using and what’s an endearing term for someone from a certain country? Generally you should err on the side of not using terms you’re unsure about, but there’s one that’s been proven to be fair game: Kiwi. The South Australian Employment Tribunal made this ruling this week, concluding that calling someone from New Zealand a ‘Kiwi’ doesn’t constitute racial discrimination or harassment.
The case was brought by a New Zealand worker at a bakery in Adelaide, where the managing director nicknamed her “Kiwi” and others in the workplace quickly adopted the name. While the employee claimed that the nickname was disrespectful and thus a cause of racial discrimination, the tribunal didn’t agree.
To avoid a toxic workplace culture, it's important to know which phrases and actions can make employees from different backgrounds or identities feel uncomfortable and targeted. Not meaning to give offence does not excuse this behaviour - especially if you keep repeating it. </p> <p>With that in mind, here are 14 seemingly innocent phrases to avoid (and what to say instead.)Read more
They said that, as the employee didn’t suffer any unfavourable treatment such as a lack of career progression or segregation in the workplace, the nickname didn’t amount to racial discrimination. Judge Farrell, who presided over the case, agreed that calling someone from New Zealand a Kiwi was not offensive. As the woman’s employer pointed out, the term Kiwi is often used by the New Zealand Government in campaigns and is generally seen as a term of endearment.
Of course, if someone doesn’t like being called Kiwi, the polite thing to do is to stop using it. As Niki Vincent, the Commissioner for Equal Opportunity in SA, said on ABC Radio Adelaide: “If someone takes particular offense at that nickname and doesn’t like it and says they don’t like it and asked not to be called that anymore, in a respectful workplace that’s what you’d do, you wouldn’t call them that anymore.”