When A Joke Is An Insult In Disguise

When A Joke Is An Insult In Disguise

If  racist comments have been made to you at work, wrapped up as a joke to hide the insult, they are still racist comments and contrary to employment law.

This was the case for a British driver who worked at a firm where he was in a racial minority.

Recently an employment tribunal heard that the lorry driver was repeatedly called workshy, and subject to jibes including statements that: “No more English drivers should be used as they are lazy and only interested in claiming benefits.”

The comments were made by Burvinder Singh Birk, boss of Birk Holdings, based in Peterborough, although it was claimed  the words had been spoken in jest.

The driver was sacked in 2019, with Birk citing concerns about his performance, attendance and time keeping.

The tribunal panel ruled the driver ad suffered race discrimination and harassment and  was awarded £2,500 for injury to feelings and a further £961.74 for a breach of employment law.

“The comments are serious such that they create a hostile and/or intimidating environment because they are made by a number of reasonably senior individuals, over a period of time, repeated and in a workplace in which the claimant was a minority,” said employment Judge Jennifer Bartlett.

“A lot of extremely unpleasant behaviour can be dressed up as a joke, but it is not an excuse,” said  Judge Bartlett.


The Graham Agency, working with you.