Sydney cafe refused to hire black barista

Last updated 11:18 20/08/2014

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The owner of a Sydney cafe under investigation by Australia's Fair Work Ombudsman after he reportedly refused to hire a black barista has himself become the target of racist attacks.

The Forbes & Burton cafe in Darlinghurst was the centre of a storm on Monday when Brazilian-born Australian Nilson Dos Santos, 39, revealed the cafe's owner Steven Hu had denied him a job based on the colour of his skin.

"'But you are black, I don't think you'll be able to work in the shop. My customers are white and they don't like to have black people making coffee for them'," Dos Santos said Hu told him at the interview.

Hu defended his decision on Monday night, telling Channel 10 that most baristas were either white or Asian, saying he was just trying to provide his customers the best service.

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Dos Santos said he has been working as a barista in Australia for nine years.

Many people leapt to the defence of Dos Santos on social media by targeting Hu, who arrived in Australia from Shanghai nine months ago. Comments flooded the Forbes & Burton Facebook page accusing Hu of racism. More than one person told him to return to China.

"Who the hell does he think he is? He isn't even an Australian citizen and he's telling us what we prefer in OUR country?? Go back to China mate. You're not welcome here," one person wrote.

Another wrote: "So this is awkward... a non australian being racist to an australian citizen. Ive never ever said this before but you sir need to pack your bags and go back to your own country!"

Customers also threatened boycotts, with many vowing not to return to the cafe while it is under his management.

Australia's Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane tweeted: "Unacceptable conduct from this cafe owner. Under RDA, it's unlawful to discriminate on racial grounds in employment."

A spokesman for the ombudsman confirmed it was conducting enquiries into the matter.

"Under the Fair Work Act 2009, it is unlawful to discriminate against employees or prospective employees on the grounds of race, colour, sex, sexual preference, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, family or carer's responsibilities, pregnancy, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin," the spokesman said.

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There were reports on Tuesday that the business had been "flour-bombed" overnight and was very quiet, with customers choosing to boycott the cafe.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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