A NORTH-EAST car dealership was yesterday found guilty of racial harassment.
Sherwoods Motor Group was ordered to pay former salesman Nathan Haslam £8,000 after he was subjected to racial language by general manager Christopher Shutt.
Judge Tudor Garnon called the abuse resentful, and said it created a harassing atmosphere at the company’s Stockton showroom.
Last night, Alasdair MacConachie, Sherwoods’ managing director and the Vice-Lord Lieutenant of County Durham, said the company regretted the incident, adding he would have acted immediately if he had been aware of the language.
Mr Haslam, speaking after the hearing, said: “Nobody should have to go through what I did at work.
“This tribunal has been the longest road I have ever been down and I’m delighted with the decision.
“I totally respect Mr MacConachie and the company, but the harassment came from one man in a position of trust.”
The employment tribunal, at Teesside Magistrates’ Court, rejected further claims Mr Haslam was overlooked for jobs and constructively dismissed from his role because of his race.
It previously heard Mr Shutt admit using racial language as “playful banter” towards Mr Haslam, and that the former Sheffield Wednesday footballer was deeply offended when a team photograph was defaced on his computer with the name Nathan written next to a black player.
The company had claimed Mr Haslam, of Stokesley, North Yorkshire, falsified the case after he was sacked by the Vauxhall dealership amid allegations he stole more than £5,000 from a car sale in December 2010.
The proceedings were later discontinued.
The tribunal heard Mr Haslam, who had received wage advances from Mr MacConachie, finally acted on the comments when his eight-year-old daughter was called a racist name at summer school.
Judge Garnon said: “He was not very sensitive to jokes with a racial context, but changed after the incident with his little girl which made him think about the appropriateness of such language.
“Christopher Shutt created a harassing atmosphere, it became resentful and the language got worse.
“Mr Haslam made it clear he’d had enough, but Mr Shutt didn’t hear that message.
“Mr MacConachie, who acted as a perfect gentleman, was absolutely right this language was unacceptable.
“Although Mr Haslam didn’t raise a grievance immediately, that didn’t mean he wasn’t hurt.”
Mr MacConachie said: “We are a proud company and this has been a very regrettable episode.
“Had I known the extent of the unacceptable language being used, I would have acted immediately.
“I fully respect the decision of the tribunal and it stands as a salutary reminder not only to our company but to all employers about the dangers of office banter getting out of hand.”