Anthony Johnston has successfully represented a Porsche salesman, who was sacked after joining in with a culture of racist and sexist banter amongst the sales team at the dealership where he worked, in an unfair dismissal claim heard at the Nottingham Employment Tribunal.
The Employment Judge found that a “laddish”, crude and immature culture existed amongst the all-male sales team and sales managers at the dealership, which had manifested itself in the use of offensive language and behaviour, including overtly racist and crude sexist and homophobic references. The Claimant, who was the only non-white member of the sales team had been subjected to some extreme examples of bullying and harassment throughout his employment, including being referred to as “chapati” and “poppadom” and, on one occasion, having a banana from a fruit bowl thrown on the floor at his young son who had been brought into a dealership. The Judge found that the Claimant had attempted to fit in with his colleagues by, to an extent, participating in the behaviour and passively tolerating the racial slurs that were directed towards him.
The Claimant had been dismissed for alleged racial and sexual harassment of one of the sales team, who had been directly involved in bullying and harassing the Claimant, arising out of the sending of crude text messages and posting racially and sexually inappropriate content within a WhatsApp group that had been set up by the Claimant for use by members of the sales team during the first national lockdown. The Judge found that, in considering whether dismissal was a sanction falling within the range of reasonable responses, the Claimant’s actions had to be put in the appropriate context of the culture that had been fostered within the sales team at the dealership and the terms upon which the Claimant had participated in the same. Moreover, the Judge found that the Respondent’s purported assertion that it had a “zero tolerance” policy towards such conduct simply could not be reconciled with the evidence as to the culture which was prevalent within the sales team.
Written by Janita Patel