An Employment Tribunal has ruled in favour of a salesman of Asian descent who worked at a Porsche dealership after it was found this employee was subject to racist taunts and abuse from fellow colleagues.
A Porsche dealership salesman, Shailesh Rathod, has won an unfair dismissal claim after being terminated due to joining in with the abuse aimed at himself from other colleagues.
The tribunal heard that Mr. Rathod was the only salesman working at the dealership who was not white, leaving him to become a target for racial abuse from the other salesmen he worked alongside.
The taunts included being called “chapatti” and “poppodam”. In addition, on one occasion Mr. Rathod came to the workplace when on holiday, accompanied by his son. A colleague then threw a banana by Mr. Rathod’s son to “see how he reacts” before laughing intensely.
As such, Mr. Rathod reported feeling like an “outsider” forced to “integrate” into the company culture. His motivations behind this were stated as a desire to keep his job and to fit into the group.
The employment tribunal were told that, since joining the company in 2018, Mr. Rathod attempted to conform to the culture of the wider group. As such, this led Mr. Rathod to “get to the joke before they did” in an attempt to join in.
In March 2020, when the sales staff were put on furlough, the group set up a Whatsapp chat where they shared offensive memes and jokes.
However, on their return to the workplace, Mr. Rathod was subject to the incident aforementioned regarding his son and a colleague taunting him with a banana to “see how he reacts”.
At this point, Mr. Rathod decided to lodge a formal grievance to his management but his concerns were dismissed. This prompted Mr. Rathod to go on sick leave in September 2020.
At a later point, Mr. Rathod put forward a grievance regarding a specific colleague, simply referred to as ‘O’ and this grievance was upheld.
However, ‘O’ then shared screenshots from the Whatsapp group chat with their employer where Mr. Rathod was shown to have shared offensive jokes, including stating he is having “chapattis and poppadoms” for lunch”. As such, Mr. Rathod was subject to a disciplinary hearing before being dismissed for racial and sexual harrassment towards ‘O’.
In his comments, the manager stated that comments made by Mr. Rathod about having “chapattis and poppadoms” for lunch were just as bad as the banana incident as one “cannot league racism”.
The manager finally stated:
Banter is okay until it’s not okay. Referring back to our dignity at work policy you have contravened several points in here, factually, when it comes to harassment of a sexual and racial nature.
As a company we have zero tolerance towards it. My view and my conclusion is I have no alternative to dismiss you from the business today.
However, Judge Clark who presided over the case, stated that the company culture was “laddish, crude and immature”:
This particular laddish culture developed a more sinister level as it was infected by the overt prejudices, opinions and attitudes of some of its members.
I find this influenced the way the team interacted, and the peer pressure meant it became the norm.
The Judge further stated that there was no evidence that ‘O’ was offended by the comments made by Mr. Rathod on Whatsapp and argued that the “messages are a product of the culture he came into and which has been allowed to normalise without censure by the employer’s lower management”.
The compensation for Mr. Rathod has not yet been decided and will be set at a later hearing.