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British Sikh mistaken for Syrian, harassed and wants millions in compensation

A British Sikh who was racially bullied so severely that a psychiatrist warned he may never return to work is seeking record damages.

Kieran Sidhu, 36, endured extensive racial abuse from three colleagues while working for tech firm Exertis in southern England. Glynn Smith, Stuart Smith and John Cleary called him an “Arab shoe bomber,” described him as “the only ethnic on the team,” looked up his home address and called it Aleppo and said he was a “temperamental Syrian immigrant.” 

The trio also threw his laptop in the bin and hid his electronic equipment and chair.

He is now seeking some £6.6 million ($9.4 million) in damages after a psychiatrist told a tribunal he may never be able to work again. The highest ever tribunal payout in Britain is currently £4.7 million, made by the Royal Bank of Scotland last year in a case of disability discrimination. Sidhu is a Sikh Scotsman of Indian descent and has won claims of racial discrimination and harassment and constructive dismissal. 

His team members would sing “Sidhu, Sidhu, he works at O2. Sidhu, Sidhu, he’s an Arab too and he’s got a bomb in his shoe.”

Sidhu detailed how his colleagues taunted and targeted him daily, calling him a “temperamental Syrian immigrant” and saying that he was linked to Daesh.

The relentless abuse worsened in January 2016 when Sidhu was promoted to account manager after four years of work for Exertis. Sidhu said his co-workers would repeatedly tape McDonald’s adverts and a fake male escort business card to his computer screen, telling him that it was what he would be doing after getting fired. 

One of his colleagues said the area he lived in looked like “a terrorist war zone.”

One teammate said: “You will be the last ethnic if you are anything to go by.”

The tribunal in Southampton heard how his colleagues would hide his work equipment and give him an ironic standing ovation whenever he arrived late.

Sidhu said: “They thought this was funny but it was embarrassing and disruptive for me.” 

Sidhu complained to manager Matthew Rumsey, who he said showed “little interest” in his struggles, instead preferring to focus on sales targets. Sidhu said he was driven to depression by his experiences, but instead of helping Sidhu, Rumsey took clients from him and tried to remove him from Exertis “because he did not fit in with the team.” 

Sidhu eventually left the firm in May 2017 while suffering from extreme depression and anxiety. 

Psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Ornstein said he has a “very low chance of recovery” and is “unlikely to be able to work again.”

Sidhu’s solicitor Lawrence Davies said: “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.”

Exertis said in a statement that Sidhu’s experience was a “unique case across a business of more than 1,800 employees.” 

Marketing Director Rob Fitzsimons would not confirm if the trio of abusers were still working for Exertis before claiming that it had taken “appropriate disciplinary action,” adding: “Certain behaviours within a part of our business fell short of the standards we expect.”

Source: Arab News

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