MANAGEMENT at a North- East car dealership yesterday denied a former employee’s claims of racial harassment.
A tribunal heard how Christopher Shutt, a general manager with Sherwoods Motor Group, faces allegations of using racially offensive language against former salesman Nathan Haslam.
Mr Shutt, of the Darlington-based company’s Stockton branch, and Alasdair MacConachie, its managing director and vice-lord lieutenant of County Durham, both strongly deny the allegations.
The company has accused Mr Haslam, 31, of fabricating his complaint after it terminated his employment.
Andrew Twineham, representing Sherwoods, told an employment tribunal at Teesside Magistrates’ Court that Mr Haslam was a good friend of Mr Shutt’s.
He said the pair watched and played football together and Mr Haslam helped Mr Shutt dismantle his kitchen.
The tribunal also heard that criminal proceedings were started against Mr Haslam over an alleged theft of about £5,000 from a car sale in December 2010, but were later discontinued.
It was said that days after the money allegedly disappeared, Mr Haslam, of Stokesley, North Yorkshire, travelled to Sydney, Australia, and contemplated staying abroad, but returned home.
His position was later terminated by the company, with Mr Haslam saying he had earlier resigned.
The tribunal heard Mr MacConachie, chairman of Darlington Partnership and St Teresa’s Hospice, had given Mr Haslam wage advances to ease his financial position.
Mr Haslam told the hearing that he saw little of Mr MacConachie but said the managing director had always been courteous.
However, Mr Haslam said he was subjected to “die-hard” racist comments, alleging that his computer screensaver picture of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club was defaced with the name Nathan written next to a black player.
He also filmed Mr Shutt on his mobile phone allegedly using racist language.
Mr Haslam said: “My appearance was questioned and references made to my beard.
It was said I looked dirty and should be in the Taliban.
“I felt sick to the pit of my stomach, belittled and humiliated.”
Mr Twineham claimed Mr Haslam had deliberately falsified the allegations.
He said: “The reality is you had a good working relationship with Christopher Shutt and became good friends.
“You only put this complaint in because the company reported matters to the police and you were arrested.”
The tribunal continues.