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In the case of Sorby v Bradford Management Services LLP and Debarred, Mr Azeem Akhtar ET1807428/2019 the Employment Tribunal held that an English worker being told that he should “go and work for an English company” amounted to race-related harassment.

The facts in Sorby v Bradford Management Services LLP and Debarred, Mr Azeem Akhtar ET1807428/2019

Colin Sorby (the “Claimant”) commenced working for Bradford Management Services LLP on 15 July 2019 on a zero-hours contract as a production operative.  The Claimant was not a man of particular sensitivities – on one occasion he informed an Asian colleague that he liked curries and was told in reply that this was surprising as English people generally did not like curries. The Claimant, however, took this as simple workplace banter at the time. 

On 16 October 2019 Mr Akhtar called the Claimant to one side in the production area and told him that this was an Asian company and he should go and work for an English company. The Claimant received no apology and no disciplinary action was taken against Mr Akhtar by Bradford Management Services, despite the Claimant raising a complaint.

A meeting took place on 1 November 2019 between Mr Akhtar and the Claimant to discuss performance and attendance issues but little evidence was produced by Mr Akhtar to support these charges, nor any evidence of any disciplinary procedures instigated previously.

On 5 November 2019 the Claimant was told he was being placed “on call” (a euphemism for being dismissed) and asked to clear his locker and hand in property to Bradford Management Services. He was told this action was being taken due to his poor performance and attendance, as well as that the performance concerns were due to him being English and not Asian and therefore didn’t know the cuisine or know how to cook food properly (later found to have emanated from the Second Respondent).

On 12 November 2019 the Claimant lodged a grievance complaining that on 5 November 2019 he was told he would not get anymore work, despite the fact that Bradford Management Services had been hiring new labour.  He considered this was a form of retribution as he had raised concerns about Mr Akhtar complaining about the racist remark – his view was that the treatment he had received was racially motivated and wanted to formally raise his concerns via Bradford Management Services’ grievance procedure.

On 28 November 2019 the Claimant was invited to a disciplinary investigation meeting on allegations that he had committed acts of gross misconduct, but no evidence was provided to him supporting allegations of gross misconduct. No reference was made to the Claimant’s grievance.

The Claimant stated he was not able to attend the disciplinary meeting suggested but offered to attend on 2 December 2019. The Claimant further stated that he considered that he was now being victimised, and that he had suffered a detriment as a result of raising a grievance relating to breaches of the Equality Act 2010.

On 29 November 2019 the company replied to the Claimant, acknowledging the grievance and stating “we will propose a separate meeting to investigate your allegations once our investigations have been concluded in regards to the grievance made against you on 5 November 2019”.  This letter was not received by the Claimant. No action was taken by Bradford Management Services to progress the Claimant’s grievance.  

The Claimant resigned on 10 December 2019 after being told by Bradford Management Services that resigning was the only way that he would get the sums owed to him.

Want to learn more about race discrimination? Read our guide here

The decision of the Employment Tribunal

The Employment Tribunal found in favour of the Claimant on his claims for race-related harassment, victimisation, and direct race discrimination.

Race-related harassment

The Employment Tribunal held that the following conduct amounted to race-related harassment (section 26 Equality Act 2010):

  • Mr Akhtar informing the Claimant that the company was an “Asian company” and that he should go and work for an English company
  • Mr Silva reporting to the Claimant that Mr Akhtar had said to him that the Claimant “was not English and he could not cook Asian food properly”

Please click here if you would like to read more about the law on workplace harassment

Direct race discrimination

The Employment Tribunal held that the following conduct amounted to victimisation (section 13 Equality Act 2010):

  • Mr Akhtar informing the Claimant on 5 November 2019 that he would be placed “on call”, with the effect that he would get no more work

Victimisation

The Employment Tribunal held that the following conduct amounted to victimisation (section 27 Equality Act 2010):

  • The Claimant being dismissed from his employment because he had complained that he was being discriminated against

Please click here if you would like to read more about the law on workplace victimisation

Our lawyers’ views on the case

Chris Hadrill, Partner in the employment team at Redmans, commented as follows: “It is clearly inappropriate for a worker to be told to go and work for a company of a different nationality, simply due to their own nationality. Equally, companies should investigate grievances thoroughly and impartially, and a failure to do so may require some difficult explanations at an Employment Tribunal”.

The decision of the Employment Tribunal in Mr Colin Sorby v Bradford Management Services LLP and Debarred, Mr Azeem Akhtar – ET1807428/2019 can be found here.

About

Redmans Employment Team deal with employment matters for both employers and employees, including drafting employment contracts and policies, advising employers and employees on compromise agreements, handling day-to-day HR issues, advising on restructures, and handling Employment Tribunal cases for both employers and employees Call 020 3397 3603 to speak to one of the members of our employment team or email us on enquiries@redmans.co.uk. Redmans have offices in Richmond, Chiswick, Hammersmith, Fulham, Kingston, Wimbledon, Ealing, Kings Cross and Marylebone (meetings strictly by appointment only).

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