Lorry driver, who was called ‘lazy’ by employer, wins £3,500 payout Photo: iStock
AN English lorry driver has won a £3,500 payout for race discrimination after his boss described him as ‘lazy’.
James Heeley told a tribunal that colleagues in Peterborough teased him repeatedly over his nationality, making jibes that he was workshy, reported The Times.
Heeley said that he had heard Gurvinder Singh Birk, boss of Birk Holdings, mentioned that no more English drivers should be used as they are lazy and only interested in claiming benefits.
Though company officials insisted that the workers had been joking, the panel ruled that Heeley had suffered race discrimination and harassment, The Times added.
Heeley was awarded £2,500 for injury to feelings and a further £961.74 for a breach of employment law.
The hearing at Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, was told that Heeley started driving for the company in 2017, when only five of its 16 employees were white British.
The tribunal ruled that between 2018 and 2019 Heeley was the victim of numerous discriminatory comments.
He told the hearing that senior staff at the transport company had said that he did not do much work because he was English. He also accused two employees of making ‘discriminatory comments’.
Heeley said that when he returned after a few days off sick a worker said: “Oh, the lazy English worker has decided to come back to work.”
But, employees told the tribunal that the comments were ‘jokes’ by colleagues Heeley regarded as friends, The Times report said.
The hearing was told that Heeley was sacked in 2019, with Birk citing concerns about his performance, attendance and time keeping.
“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.
“Many extremely unpleasant behaviours can be dressed up as jokes but it is no excuse.”