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Semi-pro footballer, 21, wins £24k after boss at care firm job called him ‘small African boy’ 

A 21-year-old carer has been awarded £24,000 compensation after winning an age and race discrimination case when his boss kept calling him a ‘small African boy’.

Salvyn Kisitu, who also played semi-professional football, was subjected to a tirade of ageist and racial discrimination while looking after vulnerable children at Inclusive Care Support Limited in Romford, Essex.

He was awarded £18,000 for injury to feelings plus £6,000 in loss of earnings after claiming his boss Justin Gardner, a black man with Jamaican heritage, called him a ‘small African boy’ and a ‘f**king stupid kid’.

When addressing Mr Kisitu, who is 16 years his junior, Mr Gardner would say ‘hey kid, come give us the handover’ and ‘hey African boy who speaks with an English accent’, in front of the vulnerable teens he cared for, an employment tribunal heard.

It was claimed on another occasion, Mr Gardner said: ‘You are a little kid in fact a boy, I am the adult so shut your f**king mouth. I have the power to get you fired so keep your mouth quiet little boy.’

His behaviour continued despite Mr Kisitu feeling extremely uncomfortable and telling his line manager not to treat him in a ‘disrespectful and unprofessional manner’, it was said.

Carer Salvyn Kisitu, who is also a semi-pro footballer (pictured left), said he was left feeling ‘overwhelming shame’ after his boss Justin Gardner subject him to racist and ageist comments

At a remedy hearing at the East London Hearing Centre, Mr Kisitu tearfully described feelings of ‘mental depression, worthlessness and hopelessness’.

He described feeling like a ‘different man’, prone to being low and often withdrawn and suffering episodes of ‘overwhelming shame, embarrassment and humiliation’.

Detailing his experience, Mr Kisitu said: ‘It was a very tough time. I did not want to talk to anyone, I hated bringing it up.’

Mr Kisitu was 19 when he was employed as a junior support worker at the company in August 2016, in his first ever job.

Employed on a zero hours contract, he worked shifts including night shifts and cared for adolescent men with learning disabilities and mental health difficulties.

When Mr Gardner first arrived the following year, Ms Kisitu told the tribunal they had a friendly and ‘bantering’ relationship and shared an interest in football and coaching.

Mr Kisitu and Mr Gardner have a connection to the sport outside work as both are involved in playing or coaching at a semi-professional level.

But Mr Kisitu took a growing dislike to the way his manager would refer to him as ‘a little kid’ and a ‘small African boy’, despite being nearly 6ft tall.

Salvyn Kisitu was awarded u00A324,000 after a hearing at the East London Tribunal Hearing Centre

Salvyn Kisitu was awarded £24,000 after a hearing at the East London Tribunal Hearing Centre

Employment Judge Bernice Elgot said: ‘Mr Kisitu described eloquently and credibly his experience of deep humiliation which he occasionally describes as ‘degradation’ at the hands of Mr Justin Gardner who was an older man, aged then 37.

‘He said this was the first time an ‘adult’ had treated him badly.

‘The claimant experienced this humiliation and embarrassment because of the exercise by Mr Justin Gardner of an imbalance of power.’

Mr Gardner denied that he had ever ‘insulted, sworn at or called Salvyn the names he has accused me of’.

On the contrary, he told the tribunal Mr Kisitu used foul language towards him and on one occasion became so aggressive and angry that he was asked to leave the premises.

Meanwhile Mr Kisitu’s mother supported her son’s claim and told the tribunal how he was routinely humiliated at work.

Evelyn Kisitu said when her son was at home, he repeatedly complained of feeling discouraged, demoralised and annoyed by this name calling which referred to his black African identity and his young age.

She described encouraging him to persist in pursuing his career, which was his first ever job, and to try to ignore or put up with the treatment he regarded as degrading.

Kisitu has left his career as a carer and is pursuing his sports-related career alongside football

Kisitu has left his career as a carer and is pursuing his sports-related career alongside football

In fact by April 2017 she and the family even began discussing with Mr Kisitu whether he should choose another career and give up his job with Inclusive Care Support Ltd, it was said.

Mr Kisitu won his case for race and age discrimination after being treated unfairly at work due to his age and race between January and August 2017.

He was awarded £18,000 in compensation for injury to feelings and £6,162 in compensation for loss of earnings.

Judge Elgot said: ‘He received discriminatory treatment not only because of his racial identity as Black African but also because he was a young man in the workplace.

‘He was then aged just 21 years old in his first job which he commenced at the age of 19.

‘We reiterate that the claimant enjoyed his work and there were no complaints or criticisms of his conduct or capability in the role.’

During his career, Mr Kisitu states on his social media accounts that he played for Hythe Town FC, Sittingbourne and Folkestone in Kent, as well as Swindon Town FC and Wrexham AFC in Wales.

Mr Kisitu has a place at university in Wrexham to study Sports and Exercise Science which he paused in 2017 to have nose surgery, known as a rhinoplasty.

He then took the care job in part because he was interested in care work and his mother encouraged him to explore it as an interesting and fulfilling stop gap.

Mr Kisitu now wishes to resume his university studies and is considering pursuing his primary interest of a sport-related career, sports psychology or physiotherapy, the court heard. 

Following the tribunal, Mr Gardner still denied all the claims, saying: ‘He had a gripe with the company.

‘I was a scapegoat and he used me to try and get money from them.

‘From my point of view I was dragged through the mud. I am black myself and me and my family are of Jamaican descent.

‘It is upsetting because I have been racially abused myself so it just doesn’t make sense.

‘With my family and my history and my background, it just wouldn’t make any sense.’


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