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Colleagues called the man an “Arab shoe bomber” as part of prolonged racist abuse during his time at the distributor.
May 26, 2021
A former Exertis employee is claiming £6.6 million (US$9.3 million) in damages after suffering what he says is racist abuse by colleagues.
Kieran Sidhu, 36, worked at the Hampshire, UK-based distributor until quitting three years ago.
Sidhu was subjected to a prolonged racist campaign during his time at the company, reports The Daily Mail. He has already won claims of race discrimination, racial harassment and constructive dismissal against the firm.
Sidhu was told he was the “only ethnic on the team” and labelled an “Arab shoe bomber.” He was also called a “temperamental Syrian immigrant’ who was “f***ing for Isis.”
The British-born salesman is a Sikh and of Scottish and Indian descent.
These were not the only instances of an alleged prolonged bullying campaign. Local newspaper The Basingstoke Gazette reports that his team falsely accused him of being gay. They simulated sex acts with bananas and made lewd remarks about sausages. They also tried to make him put on women’s lingerie in the office.
A colleague located his home on Google Maps and likened his neighbourhood to war-torn Aleppo in Syria. He also offered Sidhu’s car for sale on website webuyanycar.com and taunted him that it was only worth £100.
When Sidhu reported the racist abuse, he says his manager took clients from him. He also tried to force him out of the company “because he did not fit in with the team.”
Moreover, two of the men accused of bullying Sidhu – identified by The Metro as Stuart Smith and John Cleary – have kept their jobs. The distributor even gave one a promotion.
The Metro reports Sidhu’s abuse in detail. It reports that one of the alleged perpetrators’ LinkedIn profile shows he got the position of Amazon and online accounts Director in 2020. This was three years after the bullying was first investigated.
It says marketing director Rob Fitzsimons would not answer questions about whether the three men still worked at Exertis. Instead, he said there was diversity training and insisted they “carried out a thorough internal investigation.”
Exertis this year has stepped up its efforts for greater diversity and inclusion in the workplace. It has also called for support for the LGBTQ+ community. However, many will question these efforts if abusers reportedly remain in their jobs.
Exertis offered Channel Futures the following statement in response to the situation:
“The employment tribunal decision relates to Exertis and a breach of the Equality Act 2010 within a specific area of the business. When the complaint was made four years ago, a full internal investigation took place resulting in disciplinary action. We fully respect the tribunal’s decision and take the findings extremely seriously. This was a unique case across a business of more than 1,800 employees. However, it was clear that certain behaviours fell significantly below the standards we expect. Our response and ongoing commitments to invest heavily in increasing awareness in relation to diversity will ensure that this should never happen again.”
Meanwhile, Sidhu left the firm suffering from extreme depression and anxiety. Dr. Jonathan Ornstein, a psychiatrist, said he has a “very low chance of recovery.” Sidhu also is “unlikely to be able to work again.”
Sidhu is seeking £6,638,938 million for lost earnings, injury to feelings and aggravated damages at a remedy hearing in September.
“The size of my client’s compensation claim reflects not only the gravity of the ordeal he suffered but the psychiatric assessment that, in all probability, his career is over,” said Sidhu’s solicitor, Lawrence Davies.
The case is attracting growing outrage in the UK. Actor Danny John Jules was one of those Tweeting his contempt at the actions of the Exertis employees.
Contributing Editor, Channel Futures
Christine Horton writes about all kinds of technology from a business perspective. Specializing in the IT sales channel, she is a former editor and now regular contributor to leading channel and business publications. She has a particular focus on EMEA for Channel Futures.
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