Sikh salesman called ‘temperamental Syrian immigrant’ at work seeks record payout

Scottish employee suffered years of racial harassment from colleagues

Scottish Sikh Kieran Sidhu was racially harassed at the Exertis offices in Basingstoke, England. 
Scottish Sikh Kieran Sidhu was racially harassed at the Exertis offices in Basingstoke, England. 

A Scottish Sikh is seeking £6.6 million ($9.3m) in damages after being called a “temperamental Syrian immigrant” in a campaign of racist abuse and bullying by work colleagues.

Salesman Kieran Sidhu, 36, won his claim against the racial harassment and bullying he suffered while employed by technology company Exertis, based in Basingstoke, England.

The harassment against Mr Sidhu, who joined the company in 2012, escalated when he was given a £46,000-a-year sales job as an account supervisor.

He quit the office in May 2017 while suffering from extreme depression and anxiety.

An employment tribunal in Southampton upheld Mr Sidhu's claims of unfair dismissal and racial harassment by his colleagues and found that "crude sexual innuendo and express sexual reference" were considered entertaining.

Colleagues branded him the “only ethnic on the team”, a “temperamental Syrian immigrant”, and called him an “Arab shoe bomber”.

One worker also likened his neighbourhood to Aleppo in Syria after locating it on Google Maps.

Co-workers would put his laptop computer in the bin, hide his mouse and other items around the office.

Mr Sidhu said: "They thought this was funny, but it was embarrassing and disruptive for me."

Psychiatrist Jonathan Ornstein said the bullying was so bad that his client has a “very low chance of recovery” and is “unlikely to be able to work again”.

The tribunal also found that Mr Sidhu’s manager failed to take action when the complaints were raised and “tried to force him out of the firm because he did not fit with the team”.

Mr Sidhu is now seeking £6.6m for lost earnings and aggravated damages. If he is awarded the full amount, it would be the biggest payout by a tribunal in British history.

“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,” Mr Sidhu’s solicitor, Lawrence Davies, told the Daily Mail.

On this occasion it was clear that certain behaviours within a part of our business fell short of the standards we expect

The company said it had launched an investigation into the bullying claims and has taken “appropriate disciplinary action”.

A statement 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.

"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.”

Updated: May 24, 2021 08:35 PM

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