• Monday, June 27, 2022

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Heathrow airport worker, Krishan Bhardwaj, who said ‘banter is in his blood’, wins unfair dismissal claim

Bhardwaj lost additional claims of racial and sexual harassment

Holidaymakers and travellers arrive at Terminal 2 of London Heathrow Airport in west London, on April 6, 2022. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Pramod Thomas

A Heathrow airport worker has won an unfair dismissal claim for being sacked after a series of pranks with his boss had gone too far, according to a report.

An employment tribunal has heard that Terminal 2 baggage handler Krishan Bhardwaj and manager James Lee were engaged in a playful working relationship which went too far, reported the MailOnline.

Bhardwaj lost additional claims of racial and sexual harassment, and is now in line to receive compensation, the report added.

The Watford tribunal heard he had worked as a baggage handler for around 14 years. One colleague described the pair as ‘best friends’ and ‘sweethearts’. However, Lee complained about Bhardwaj’s behaviour after their banter boiled over and became personal.

Initially, Bhardwaj ignored his boss’s complaints about him, believing his behaviour had simply been part of their working environment. Eventually, he was fired following a disciplinary investigation.

According to the report, an employment tribunal has now ruled Bhardwaj was unfairly dismissed by logistics company Dubai National Air Travel Agency (Dnata), after audio recordings of his abusive behaviour were not revealed to him until an appeal hearing.

The tribunal heard Lee and Bhardwaj regularly played pranks on each other in the communal staff area in a ‘give and take’ relationship. Lee tied Bhardwaj’s shoelaces together whilst he slept on his break in November 2018. Next year, Bhardwaj advised his boss about a potential health and safety risk of a flight they were working on.

Though the issue was initially dismissed by Lee, it was referred to the duty manager who was grateful for the information, the MailOnline report added.

Later, Bhardwaj complained Lee used to ‘bear hug’ him from behind, which was annoying’.

The report added that in April 2019 the pair had a disagreement outside the break room, during which Lee called him ‘P*ki’, ‘Big Nose’ and saying he would ‘make sure’ he lost his job.

Bhardwaj ‘snapped’, calling his boss a ‘stupid c***’ and saying ‘I’m gonna knock him out, you think I’m joking…’. The incident was recorded by another colleague, though both men involved were unaware of this.

The pair regularly called each other names, and Lee had once posted an edited image in a colleague ‘lottery syndicate’ WhatsApp group of Bhardwaj’s face with a penis replacing his nose.

According to Bhardwaj, Lee’s ‘inappropriate behaviour’ began to escalate between April and June.

The tribunal heard that in an email to bosses, Lee complained of aggressive ‘play fights’ instigated by Bhardwaj, which led to him suffering from ‘bruises’. He also wrote of other colleagues regarding him as ‘lazy’ and being on the receiving end of ‘verbal abuse’ about his weight from Bhardwaj.

An investigation led by Terminal business manager Steven Smith was launched into the allegations. During the meeting, Bhardwaj claimed that his conduct towards Lee was merely ‘banter’ and ‘Banter was in my blood’.

The tribunal heard other colleagues were interviewed during the process – one of whom handed bosses his recording of the April incident. Bhardwaj was invited to a disciplinary hearing in late July.

By July-end, he was dismissed for gross misconduct Bhardwaj appealed the decision and was shocked to finally hear the audio recording at his appeal hearing.

The MailOnline reported that his appeal was rejected, and he launched tribunal claims soon afterwards.

Following the hearing, Employment Judge Patrick Quill ordered that the dismissal was unfair and a remedy hearing will be held in due course to determine compensation.

Eastern Eye

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