Havant & South Downs College ordered to pay sum to ex-employee after being accused of racial discrimination

A COLLEGE accused of racial discrimination by a former black employee has been ordered to pay over £1,500 to the ex-member of staff for wrongful dismissal.

Monday, 24th December 2018, 12:17 pm
Updated Thursday, 10th January 2019, 10:51 am
Abdul Haitham

Havant & South Downs College has to fork out £1,224.33 to its former IT engineer Abdul Haitham, 41, after his claim of breach of contract was upheld following a hearing at Southampton Tribunal Court in November.

Mr Haitham, a black British born Muslim, who was dismissed from his £27,700 annual post in October 2017 having been in the job since 1999, will also receive an additional £285.18 as compensation for unpaid holiday he was entitled to.

The Gosport claimant told the tribunal he was '˜unfairly singled out' compared to his white counterparts following a catalogue of events '“ with him insisting he was the victim of harassment and racial discrimination which had ultimately resulted in him losing his job.

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But Mr Haitham's claims of racial discrimination, harassment and victimisation were not upheld by the panel following the five day hearing.

The unanimous judgement, announcing his entitlement to compensation, read: '˜The claim of breach of contract (wrongful dismissal) is well founded, on the basis that the claimant was dismissed with pay in lieu of notice when his contract of employment provided only for dismissal with notice.'

Referring to Mr Haitham's claim he was entitled to compensation in relation to pension contributions, the written verdict added: '˜The respondent accepts that the claimant should have been automatically enrolled in the pension scheme prior to the notice period and is liable to compensate the claimant in respect of pension contributions during the notice period.'   

The claimant accused the college during the hearing of '˜having policies just for me' after he was told he was not allowed to have his five year old son on the premises while other white members of staff were able to do so.

After 18 years of finishing work one hour early during Ramadan he was suddenly told this was not allowed by his new IT manager David Turner. '˜I was told I can't decide my own hours but for 18 years I had been allowed to work different hours during this period,' he said.

The claimant also said he was told not to talk to women on the IT helpdesk because '˜it did not look professional' as his working environment became '˜relentlessly intimidating and hostile'

Mr Haitham lodged a complaint against Sheena Elsmore, the IT help desk manager at the time, who no longer works at the college, over perceived differential treatment where she would '˜backbite' against the claimant with IT team leader Simon Allinson and refuse him keys to the office '“ in contrast with other staff.

Mr Haitham's claims of racial discrimination were rejected by principal Michael Gaston at the tribunal. But he did confess there were widespread failures with the management of the IT department.

Asked if he thought the treatment against Mr Haitham was down to bad management rather than racial discrimination, he said: '˜That's correct.'

He added: '˜I don't believe he was the only one (to suffer from poor management).'

Following the verdict, a spokesperson for Havant & South Downs College said: '˜The college values its employees highly and always endeavours to treat them fairly and equitably. We are pleased with the outcome from the employment tribunal.

'˜The college aims to eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and foster good relations between all learners, staff and the wider communities it serves.

'˜The college also strives to ensure that the work environment is free of harassment and bullying and that everyone is treated with dignity and respect, an important aspect of ensuring equal opportunities in all aspects of our work.'

Mr Haitham said he will make comment once he has received the tribunal's written reasons.