Kieran Sidhu, 36, (pictured) was subjected to a litany of bullying and insults in his £46,000-a-year job at tech company Exertis
A Sikh office worker who was mocked as an ‘Arab shoe bomber’ in a sustained campaign of racist abuse by colleagues is calling for £6.6million in damages.
Kieran Sidhu, 36, who was subjected to a litany of bullying and insults in his £46,000-a-year job at tech company Exertis, has already won claims of race discrimination, racial harassment and constructive dismissal against the firm.
The British-born salesman, who is of Scottish and Indian descent, was told he was the ‘only ethnic on the team’, and called a ‘temperamental Syrian immigrant’ who was ‘f***ing for Isis’.
The psychological harm he suffered in the Basingstoke office was so bad he may be unable to work again, according to a psychiatrist who assessed him.
He is seeking £6,638,938 million for lost earnings, injury to feelings and aggravated damages at a remedy hearing in September.
If the full amount is awarded it would far exceed the current record tribunal payout of £4.7million.
Mr Sidhu told an employment tribunal in Southampton how the sales team would sing: ‘Sidhu, Sidhu, he works at O2. Sidhu, Sidhu, he’s an Arab too and he’s got a bomb in his shoe…’ to the tune of Que Sera Sera.
Having joined the firm in 2012, Mr Sidhu’s harassment escalated from January 2016 when he became an account manager selling tech products.
The tribunal found that ‘crude sexual innuendo and express sexual reference’ were considered ‘entertaining banter’ at the male-orientated workplace.
It found that three of Mr Sidhu’s former colleagues – Glynn Smith, Stuart Smith and John Cleary – racially harassed him.
A tribunal found that three of Mr Sidhu’s former colleagues – Glynn Smith (pictured), Stuart Smith and John Cleary – racially harassed him
Mr Sidhu told the tribunal how his team repeatedly taped McDonald’s adverts and a spoof male escort business card to his monitor, saying it was what he would be doing once he was sacked.
One colleague referred to Mr Sidhu as ‘f***ing for Isis’ and after looking up his house on Google Maps declared he lived in a ‘s**t area that looks like a terrorist war zone’, adding: ‘What’s that place called, Aleppo?’
After Mr Sidhu was asked how it felt to be the ‘only ethnic on the team’ the same racist colleague said: ‘You will be the last ethnic if you are anything to go by.’
On other occasions, Mr Sidhu’s team would put his laptop in the bin, hide his mouse and chair and stand to applaud whenever he arrived at work late.
Mr Sidhu said: ‘They thought this was funny but it was embarrassing and disruptive for me.’
Mr Sidhu told the tribunal how his team repeatedly taped McDonald’s adverts and a spoof male escort business card to his monitor, saying it was what he would be doing once he was sacked. Pictured: Stuart Smith
He recalled one humiliating incident when he was told that a work event to which he had been invited at the last minute could be black tie. He rushed out and returned with a £180 tuxedo, only to receive an email copied in to his colleagues saying: ‘Kieran, spot the fatal dress code error…’ and highlighting the dress code, which was ‘smart (not black-tie)’.
He went to his manager to complain about his treatment, saying: ‘When they’re Googling my name going, ‘You live in a terrorist area’ and all this nonsense, that’s draining… for me mentally I’m thinking, where have I gone wrong? Once is a joke, twice is a joke… there hasn’t been once in three days where that hasn’t happened.’
The tribunal found that manager Matthew Rumsey showed ‘little interest’ in Mr Sidhu’s complaints of bullying, caring far more about the team’s sales targets.
Instead, Mr Rumsey took client accounts off him and tried to force him out of the firm ‘because he did not fit with the team’, the tribunal ruled.
Mr Sidhu quit his job in the firm’s Basingstoke office in May 2017 suffering from extreme depression and anxiety.
After Mr Sidhu was asked how it felt to be the ‘only ethnic on the team’ the same racist colleague said: ‘You will be the last ethnic if you are anything to go by.’ Pictured: John Cleary
After assessing Mr Sidhu, psychiatrist Dr Jonathan Ornstein concluded he has a ‘very low chance of recovery’ and is ‘unlikely to be able to work again’.
Mr Sidhu’s solicitor Lawrence Davies said: ‘The size of my client’s compensation claim reflects not only the gravity of the ordeal he suffered but the psychiatric assessment that, in all probability, his career is over.’
In a statement, Exertis said Mr Sidhu’s experience was a ‘unique case across a business of more than 1,800 employees’.
The firm said it had taken ‘appropriate disciplinary action’, adding: ‘Certain behaviours within a part of our business fell short of the standards we expect.’
Last year the Royal Bank of Scotland was ordered to pay a record £4.7million to a 31-year-old worker known only as AB at Nat West, one of the bank’s subsidiaries, for harassment and disability discrimination.
A spokesperson for Exertis said: ‘The employment tribunal decision relates to Exertis and a breach of the Equality Act 2010 within a specific area of the business. We fully respect the tribunal’s decision.
When the complaint was made four years ago, Exertis immediately launched a thorough internal investigation and took appropriate disciplinary action.
This was a unique case across a business of more than 1,800 employees. However, Exertis takes any such concerns extremely seriously. This is why we took immediate remedial action, such as diversity and inclusion training, on completion of that investigation in 2017.
On this occasion it was clear that certain behaviours within a part of our business fell short of the standards we expect. However, our response makes sure that this should never happen again. Exertis prides itself on being an inclusive employer and continues to invest heavily in increasing awareness in relation to diversity.’