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Dover Border Force officer paid £16,000 for unfair dismissal after calling black colleague 'king of the jungle'

An immigration officer sacked after being accused of calling Vietnamese 'gooks', a work colleague a 'Paki' and referring to a black colleague as 'the king of the jungle' has won his claim of unfair dismissal.

Joel Gold, who worked in Dover, also joined in a conversation about another work colleague dubbed 'Taliban Tom' and said he wouldn't recruit 'fat women' the employment tribunal was told.

He worked for Border Force in Dover
He worked for Border Force in Dover

But he was awarded more than £16,000 after the Employment judge said after 'drilling down' into the detail, Mr Gold was not given a fair hearing by his employers at the Home Office.

The South London Tribunal heard that two co-workers who said that they heard him refer to Vietnamese as 'gooks' whilst working in Calais but the employment judge ruled it could not have taken place where they said it did.

Mr Gold denied that remark, said he might have referred to a colleague with a tan and a beard as Pakistani, but not a 'Paki'.

He admitted that on another occasion he called a Nigerian colleague the "King of the Jungle", but said this referred to his status in the Border Force hierarchy rather than his ethnicity and did not mean to cause offence.

No complaint was made about this incident and no one present reported it.

The employment judge ruled that the dismissal process which ended with Mr Gold's sacking for gross misconduct was not followed correctly and Mr Gold didn't receive a fair hearing which seemed to assume he was lying.

The 47-year-old was sacked as a Higher Officer with the Border Force in June 2018 after 23 years of service with a spotless record on the grounds of gross misconduct following the alleged racist remarks.

He claimed his employers - the Home Office - dismissed him unfairly and sued them for over £28,000.

When other Border Force workers allegedly called a colleague "Taliban Tom", Mr Gold was accused of saying these remarks should be made more discreetly and "saved for the back of the bus".

A fifth allegation was that Mr Gold said he would not recruit any "fat women". These last two allegations were dropped and not investigated by the Home Office.

Employment Judge Timothy Russell said that although "there was not a race to find the claimant [Mr Gold] guilty and dismiss him", "his defence to the charges was not given the consideration that a fair hearing warranted".

"I find all involved in that process were too ready to conclude the claimant was guilty..."

Despite Employment Judge Russell saying the Home Office conducted a "full and fair process involving an investigation, disciplinary and appeal", he ruled "there was an air of inevitability about the eventual determination from investigation through to the appeal outcome".

He said that because two witnesses who claimed to overhear the comments made about Vietnamese people were friends this could have led to "collusion".

The incident could also not have taken place in a freight shed in Calais as the witnesses stated and so they could have been "mistaken as to the comment itself", the judge said.

Employment Judge Russell said: "I accept the claimant’s guilt was not pre judged.

"[But] I find all involved in that process were too ready to conclude the claimant was guilty. And as a result, the dismissal officer was at the heart of an unfair process.

The South London Employment Tribunal in Croydon
The South London Employment Tribunal in Croydon

"The claimant’s own explanation and or defence was brushed aside time and time again in favour of the witnesses who spoke against him. And unfairly so."

Instead of being sacked, Mr Gold should have been given a formal warning and training on his use of language, Judge Russel added.

The judge also said the Home Office was too eager to accept the witnesses' claims due to "sensitivities" in dealing with ethnic minority and or refugees.

He added: "The sensitivities with language and given the claimant’s role and work with, in many cases, ethnic minority and or refugees, migrants and other vulnerable individuals are self-evident.

"But this made the respondent [the Home Office] not only determined to stamp out inappropriate conduct but also loathe to accept the alternative explanation offered."

Mr Gold, who soon moved on to another job, was awarded £16,371.27 compensation for his loss of earnings.

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