UK

Border force officer sacked for calling black colleague ‘King of the Jungle’ wins £16,000 payout

A senior Border Force officer who was sacked after calling a black colleague ‘King of the Jungle’ has won more than £16,000 after a tribunal ruled his remark wasn’t racist. 

Joel Gold, 47, argued that he had used the phrase to describe the Nigerian man’s importance in the organisation rather than as a racist slur.

But the married father-of-three was dismissed by the Home Office after an investigation found that others who overheard it ‘winced’ at the offensiveness of the comment.

Now the veteran officer has successfully sued them for unfair dismissal after an employment judge found they had not considered the full context of his remark or fully investigated it.

Joel Gold, 47, argued that he had used the phrase to describe the Nigerian man’s importance in the organisation rather than as a racist slur

Judge Timothy Russell said: ‘On the one hand [his colleague], to whom Mr Gold referred, was a black Nigerian man and might have taken offence.

‘On the other hand, Mr Gold was clear that no one present had taken offence. Indeed no one had reported it.

‘Such a remark – bearing in mind the king of the jungle is normally regarded as a lion after all – can be innocent of any offence if referring, for instance, to the king pin in a hierarchy, as Mr Gold suggests.’

Judge Russell said the Home Office investigator ‘did not seem to countenance an innocent explanation for the remark’ and criticised her for ‘preferring to adopt the evidence that supported the charge without further investigation’.

The hearing was told that in addition to the ‘King of the Jungle’ comment, Mr Gold was also accused by colleagues of making other racist remarks.

Home Office bosses determined that Mr Gold called a co-worker ‘P***’ and while working in Calais used the wartime racial slur ‘G****’ to describe Vietnamese people.

As part of Mr Gold’s sacking, the Home Office also investigated complaints that he said he ‘wouldn’t recruit any fat women’ and allowed others to use the phrase ‘Taliban Tom’ at work.

After he was sacked in June 2018 following a protracted dismissal process, Mr Gold – who worked as a Border Force agent for 23 years – launched legal proceedings against the Home Office.

At the London South employment tribunal in Croydon, Judge Russell ruled that the ‘die was cast’ during the Home Office’s investigation and Mr Gold had ‘no chance’ of convincing them he might be innocent.

There was ‘unreliable’ evidence to suggest Mr Gold called people ‘G****’ and there was an inadequate investigation into whether he called a co-worker ‘Pakistani’ rather than ‘P***’, Judge Russell said.

Judge Russell ruled: ‘I find there was an air of inevitability about the eventual determination from investigation through to the appeal outcome. I find all involved in that process were too ready to conclude Mr Gold was guilty.’

He added: ‘The focus was, whilst attempting to follow Home office procedure, to find fault with Mr Gold and either ignore or give no or little credence to his alternative explanation.

At the London South employment tribunal in Croydon, pictured, Judge Russell ruled that the 'die was cast' during the Home Office's investigation and Mr Gold had 'no chance' of convincing them he might be innocent

At the London South employment tribunal in Croydon, pictured, Judge Russell ruled that the ‘die was cast’ during the Home Office’s investigation and Mr Gold had ‘no chance’ of convincing them he might be innocent

‘There was no obvious attempt to step back and consider the overall fairness of procedure.

‘Mr Gold had no chance of establishing his innocence and the die was cast at an early stage even though I also accept the position was not pre-judged in that the position was determined in advance.

‘It was simply that the bar was set too high, unfairly so, for Mr Gold to prove his innocence.

‘Once the allegations had been made the Home Office was reluctant to find any explanation for them other than a damning one showing Mr Gold at fault.

Mr Gold, who Judge Russell said deserved a proper investigation due to his long years of unblemished service, won £16,371 for his unfair dismissal claim.

Mr Gold, from Deal, Kent, said he now works as a site manager for a rail firm but struggled to find work at first as he had to explain he was sacked for racism.

Mr Gold, who is friends with the co-worker he made the King of the Jungle comment about, today said: ‘I was lucky that everybody who knew me knew I wasn’t a racist, but my life became very difficult when I was looking for work.

‘People start thinking ‘the Home Office don’t usually get it wrong so he must be racist’ but they did get it wrong and this tribunal shows that.

‘They tried to make the crime fit the allegations. It felt to me that a few people investigating wanted to make a point because you don’t have many disciplinary hearings in the Home Office like this.’


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