A white, middle-aged employee has blamed his ethnic background for his mistreatment by his employer, Lloyds Bank, after uttering a racial slur during an anti-discrimination training session.
Unforeseen Fallout of an Anti-Racism Training Session
A 59-year-old Lloyds Bank employee, Carl Borg-Neal, found himself entangled in a legal battle after being sacked for uttering a racial slur during an anti-racism training session. The tribunal ruled in his favour, citing unfair dismissal and discrimination based on his dyslexia, awarding him substantial damages. However, the aftermath revealed a lingering stain on Borg-Neal’s reputation.
During an online training session attended by about 100 Lloyds managers, Borg-Neal, inquiring about handling offensive language, inadvertently used the full racial slur instead of the intended abbreviation. The tribunal acknowledged that the comment was made without malice and attributed it to Borg-Neal’s dyslexia, which causes him to “spurt things out” due to the fear of losing his train of thought.
A Two-Year Legal Battle
For Borg-Neal, the legal victory comes as a vindication of his campaign to clear his name. Despite being awarded damages close to £500,000, he is still without his desired resolution – an apology from Lloyds and reinstatement to his old job.
The absence of an apology leaves the allegation of racism hanging over him, impacting his personal and professional life. “It is kind of a double-edged sword. When I set out on this legal claim, I said to my mum: ‘If I have to sell my house, I don’t care because this is about clearing my name. Lloyds were calling me racist and that is certainly something I am not and something I have never been,” said Borg-Neal.
Borg-Neal’s Further Claims
After 30 years with Lloyds, Borg-Neal believes he has been treated like a “pariah.” He reflects on whether his experience would have been different if he weren’t a “white middle-aged male.”
The aftermath of the training session revealed a contentious environment. While Borg-Neal’s dyslexia was recognized as a contributing factor, the trainer’s reaction, described as aggressive, adds complexity to the situation.
“I feel very discriminated against,” he said, “I often wonder if I wasn’t a white middle-aged male would I have had to go through everything I went through? There is no way of telling. But when I talk to my friends – and as you can imagine a good many are white, middle-aged and male – we all agree that is the worst thing you can be right now. You are bottom of everything.”
The tribunal acknowledged the emotional toll on Borg-Neal, highlighting the “shock, hurt, humiliation, and damage” he suffered. The extended legal battle not only impacted his reputation but also took a toll on his health, causing back pain and anxiety.
Free Speech Union and Colleagues Reflect on Victory
The Free Speech Union (FSU), supporting Borg-Neal’s case, views it as a reminder for employers to treat each employee fairly, irrespective of “dogma.” “Mr. Borg-Neal was treated abysmally by his employer,” said FSU legal officer Karolien Celie, “and we are delighted that justice has been served in his case. Mr. Borg-Neal’s case is a timely reminder for employers not to be blinded by dogma but to treat each employee fairly in accordance with the law and in a spirit of tolerance, open-mindedness and good faith.”
One of Borg-Neal’s colleagues, who comes from an ethnic minority background, sent him a letter of congratulations which read, “Now the lid has been lifted I wanted to say how proud I am to count you as a friend and a colleague. Stand up, stand tall and please reach out if I can help in any way.” Borg-Neal was notably emotional when reading the letter aloud.
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