A man who worked for a curry supplier has won a race discrimination claim after being told he did not understand recipes because he was white.
Mr Sorby worked for Bradford Management Services at Mumtaz Foods in Bradford, which supplies meals to Indian restaurants and supermarkets (not related to Mumtaz Restaurant in Leeds). He complained about the comments, accusing his managers of making a “stereotypical assumption” that he could not cook Asian food properly because he was British.
After he raised the issue, his shifts began to dry up and he was placed “on call”, asked to empty his locker and return property belonging to the company, effectively rendering him dismissed.
He was also advised to look for another job as he would not be offered any further work.
According to the tribunal, his supervisor Mr Akhtar, a director of Mumtaz Foods, had told him that “this is an Asian food company, you have to work faster”, an incident that prompted Sorby to text the HR department and ask them to address it with Akhtar.
Sorby later raised a grievance in November 2019, claiming he had tried to resolve matters with HR manager Mr Silva earlier but without success, and that he considered his treatment racially motivated.
The tribunal noted a number of issues with the disciplinary procedure at Mumtaz, including inviting Sorby to a gross misconduct meeting relating to an incident in the work canteen without first interviewing witnesses, Sorby failing to receive notification of this meeting and no action to progress his own complaint.
It also found no evidence that employees were inducted in or trained in equality and diversity, or any measures to monitor the performance of diversity measures in the workplace.
In a meeting with HR, he was told he would no longer receive shifts because of his performance, despite there being no previous mentions of problems with him following recipes. He worked considerable hours on a zero-hours contract, and was told he would have to resign to receive his “week-in-hand” pay that the company withheld from production operative workers until they resigned.
In the judgment, employment judge TR Smith, said: “The comment was not trivial or unintended and Mr Akhtar’s intention was to try and persuade the claimant to leave the First Respondent’s [Akhtar] employment.
“The tribunal is satisfied that Mr Akhtar called the Claimant to one side in the production area on 16 October 2019 and told the Claimant that this was an Asian company and he should go and work for an English company.”
The tribunal upheld Sorby’s claims for racial discrimination, harassment and victimisation. Compensation will be awarded at a remedy hearing, a date for which is yet to be fixed.