An employment tribunal has ruled a Lloyds Bank manager was unfairly sacked after using the N-word during an anti-racism seminar. As a result, the employer has been ordered to pay the former employee £490,000. Below, we discuss what happened, why he was unfairly sacked, and the reason diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) training is essential.
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Bank Manager Sacked After Using the N-word During Anti-Racism Training
Carl Borg-Neal was a Lloyds Bank manager who had been with the company for 27 years. In July 2021, he took part in an online training session which was part of the bank’s ‘Race Action Plan’, influenced by George Floyd’s murder. Previously, Mr Borg-Neal had taken part in a scheme where he mentored young colleagues from ethnic minority backgrounds. At the time of the incident, he was mentoring three individuals.
Before the session began, the training provider’s instructor outlined that attendees shouldn’t worry about saying the wrong thing. They explained that the session gave individuals an “opportunity to practice, learn and be clumsy”. The Free Speech Union (FSU), which supported Mr Borg-Neal, stated that he took this sentiment at face value due to his dyslexia. As such, he questioned what to do if faced with individuals from ethnic minorities using a word considered offensive if used by white people. He added, “The most common example being use of the word (N-word) in the black community”.
Subsequently, the instructor ‘berated’ him, stating he would be kicked off the course if he spoke again, despite apologising for causing offence. However, anonymous feedback collected after the course suggested colleagues supported Mr Borg-Neal. Some were shocked by how the instructor spoke to him, whilst others believed he asked a “valid question to aid understanding”.
Regardless, bosses at Lloyd’s Bank didn’t feel the same way. Following the course, the instructor took leave due to being distressed and insulted by Mr Borg-Neal using the N-word. As such, the training provider complained to Lloyd’s Bank, instigating an internal investigation and disciplinary process. After their investigation, the bank found Mr Borg-Neal guilty of gross misconduct and dismissed him.
The Tribunal Rules he was Unfairly Sacked
The bank manager believed he was unfairly sacked and appealed his dismissal. However, this was unsuccessful, causing him to take the employer to an employment tribunal. During proceedings, Lloyd’s Bank admitted that they knew Mr Borg-Neal meant no offence by using the N-word. Despite this, they didn’t believe he was unfairly sacked, stating he should’ve known not to use the N-word at work.
Conversely, the tribunal heard how Mr Borg-Neal’s use of the word formed part of a well-intentioned and relevant question. Furthermore, it wasn’t suggested that he used the question as a disguise to speak an offensive term.
Upon making their judgment, the tribunal explained how Mr Borg-Neal’s dyslexia was pivotal to his actions. They stated his dyslexia strongly influenced his decision to use “the full word rather than finding a means to avoid it”.
In conclusion, the tribunal held a reasonable employer wouldn’t have dismissed the bank manager. As such, Mr Borg-Neal succeeded with his claim that he’d been unfairly sacked and was awarded £490,000. Lloyd’s Bank’s bill will likely be over £1 million with legal costs and fees, and they must provide Mr Borg-Neal with a reference going forward.
Why is DEI Training Important?
Although Mr Borg-Neal was unfairly sacked following an incident during anti-racism training, individuals shouldn’t be put off attending or arranging such sessions. This is because DEI training is important for numerous reasons, including reducing unconscious bias, improving workplace culture, and boosting success.
Firstly, DEI training can help tackle unconscious bias that can unknowingly and negatively impact the workplace. This form of bias causes us to form opinions and make decisions that are unfair without even realising it. Therefore, individuals can learn to identify such biases and act accordingly by participating in DEI training.
Furthermore, this training can help improve the workplace culture. Employers could implement programs that teach employees about inclusive language and others’ beliefs. Doing so could promote a welcoming environment where people from all backgrounds feel more understood and comfortable.
Finally, such training may improve workplace productivity since employees could be more engaged due to feeling respected. What’s more, a McKinsey & Company study found that more diverse leadership leads to improved company performance. Therefore, by tackling DEI issues in the workplace through training, companies can also enhance their success.
In conclusion, it’s understandable if employers are wary of providing DEI training after the Tribunal held the Lloyd’s Bank manager was unfairly sacked. However, companies should still want to offer them. This is because, if done correctly, they offer inclusivity and productivity benefits. Therefore, employers should ensure they’re conducted appropriately rather than avoid them.
Can I Claim Compensation if Unfairly Sacked?
If you believe you’ve been unfairly sacked and want legal help, contact Redmans Solicitors. They are employment law specialists who can discover your eligibility to claim compensation and advise on how to proceed. Also, sign up for our newsletter now to get the latest updates in the employment law sector!