White British clerk who was ‘minority’ at a haulage company wins £ 2,500 racism claim after Asian boss labeled English people ‘lazy’ and colleagues joked he was ‘drunk’
- James Heeley said he was repeatedly teased by colleagues about his nationality
- The labor court ruled that he was the victim of racial discrimination and harassment
- Boss Gurvinder Singh Birk was ordered to pay Mr Heeley £ 2,500 in damages
A British employee has won a racism claim after his boss said English people were ‘lazy’.
James Heeley said he was repeatedly teased about his nationality by co-workers who asked if he was “still drunk” and accused him of being work-dirty.
The transport manager worked for Peterborough-based transport company Birk Holdings and was one of five white British employees of the 16 staff.
On one occasion he claimed he had overheard boss Gurvinder Singh Birk: “English drivers should no longer be used because they are lazy and only interested in claiming benefits.”
An employment court found that Mr Heeley was the victim of racial discrimination and harassment and ordered his former employer to pay him £ 2,500 in damages.
The panel heard that employees Wiktoria Kolenska (left) and Sandra Liutkevciene (right) said on one occasion: ‘[We] can you tell you are british because you don’t have your coat on, are you still drunk from last night? ‘
While the company claimed that the staff were “just joking,” the panel disagreed, adding in its ruling, “A lot of extremely obnoxious behavior can be dressed up as jokes, but it’s not an excuse.”
During the hearing in Bury St Edmunds, it was told that Mr Heeley started working for Peterborough-based transport company Birk Holdings in October 2017.
At the time, five of the 16 employees were white British, and the panel heard that Mr Heeley was ‘in the minority’.
From February 2018 to February of the following year, the tribunal ruled that Mr Heeley was the victim of numerous discriminatory remarks from his colleagues.
He told the court that senior staff had said ‘English drivers drive slowly’ and that Mr Heeley ‘didn’t do much work because he is English’.
The panel heard that employees Wiktoria Kolenska and Sandra Liutkevciene said to him on one occasion: ‘[We] can you tell you are british because you don’t have your coat on, are you still drunk from last night? ‘
After Mr. Heeley had been ill for a few days, he told the court that another employee, Vilius Augustis, had said, “Oh, the lazy English worker has decided to get back to work.”
The panel heard that manager, Mr Birk, had also told another senior employee not to hire UK workers because they ‘can easily turn you down and claim benefits’.
Mr Augustis is said to have said to Mr Heeley, “Lazy English workers are always sick,” the tribunal was told.
At the tribunal, another employee had argued that the comments were “mere jokes” by colleagues of his “alleged friends” and that Mr Heeley would “join in”.
He was fired on March 15, 2019 by Mr. Birk who expressed concerns about his performance, attendance and timekeeping.
An employment court in Bury St Edmunds found that Mr Heeley was the victim of racial discrimination and harassment and ordered his former employer to pay him £ 2,500 in damages
But the panel, chaired by labor judge Jennifer Bartlett, concluded that he had been discriminated against.
‘We believe that the comments are so severe that they create a hostile and / or intimidating environment because they are repeated by some moderately older persons, over a period of time, and are located in a workplace where the plaintiff was a minority , ‘it said.
‘We do not accept that the fact that he joked some of the comments undermines their effect on him. A lot of extremely unpleasant behavior can be dressed up as a joke, but it is not an excuse. ‘
Mr Heeley received £ 2,500 for injuries to feelings and a further £ 961.74 for a labor law violation.