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Sacked curry factory worker told ‘you can’t cook, you’re not Asian’

A white curry factory worker told he should "go and work for an English firm" has won his claim of race discrimination.

Colin Sorby, 31, said he was "overjoyed" after an employment tribunal ruled the remarks violated his dignity.

He complained he was racially harassed by his supervisor, Azheem Akhtar, after being told he did not understand the recipes because of his skin colour.

Mr Sorby had worked at the Mumtaz Foods production plant in Bradford, West Yorkshire, for around 15 weeks when the comments were made in October 2019.

When he complained about the "stereotypical" comments, his shifts dried up and he was effectively sacked from his job.

The tribunal upheld his claims for racial discrimination, harassment and victimisation.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Sorby said: "I'm overjoyed with the decision, it's taken a long time to go through the whole process.

"It was deplorable, as soon as I had made the complaint I was made to feel ostracised by Mr Akhtar and my allegations weren't taken seriously."

Mr Akhtar thought only British Asians like himself should be allowed to work at the company that supplies meals to Indian restaurants and supermarkets, the Leeds hearing was told.

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He claimed he apologised, but the tribunal rejected this as no disciplinary action was taken against him.

The employment judge said the comment "was not trivial or unintended" and his "intention was to try and persuade" Mr Sorby to leave the firm.

Mr Sorby was not a man of "particular sensitivities", the hearing was told.

Employment Judge T R Smith said: "For example, when he informed an Asian colleague that he liked curries and was told that was surprising as English people generally did not, he took that a simple workplace banter."

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He said the tribunal found Mr Akhtar told him "this was an Asian company and he should go and work for an English company".

The judge added: "The effect of the comment was that due to the fact the Claimant was not English he could not cook Asian food properly.

"This was a stereotypical assumption that was not predicated on any factual basis."

The judge said Mr Akhtar was a long-serving employee who described himself as a friend of company director Bilal Akbar.

He considered a white person should not be working for an Asian company and a decision was taken to remove him, the judge concluded.

Mr Akhtar, originally from Pakistan, said his offensive comment was a misunderstanding due to language difficulties.

But the tribunal preferred Mr Sorby’s evidence he "was able to clearly express himself in English on everyday matters," the judge added.

Compensation will be decided at a later hearing.

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