Lloyd's loses race-bias case over job cuts

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The Lloyd's insurance giant was branded as racist yesterday when two former staff members who were isolated in a room because they were Asian, and then made redundant, were awarded about pounds 30,000 each at an industrial tribunal.

Baldev Sahota and Latif Khan were segregated from 28 white colleagues in their department and given little work to do, the tribunal was told.

The two highly-qualified risk assessors, who earned pounds 33,000 a year, suffered six months of segregation at Lloyd's Register of Shipping before they were finally told to go.

The tribunal's chairman, David Boothe, said: "So far as race discrimination was concerned, it was clear that Lloyd's was the discriminator. The detriment was dismissal.

"Whilst Lloyd's has not admitted it was a racial decision, it was perfectly clear to anyone looking at it that it was."

Mr Sahota, 52, who was born in India, and his colleague at the world's largest marine insurer, Mr Khan, 50, originally from Pakistan, told how the white-dominated company continually victimised them at the office in Croydon, south-east London.

Mr Sahota said: "I was made to sit in a corner of the office and not given any work. They made it clear they did not want me. New recruits would come in and be sat at my desk and soon afterwards they would be given work. It was humiliating and degrading."

The two men had worked for Lloyd's Register for four years but had worked at the Croydon office six months when they were sacked in April 1994.

The tribunal in Croydon upheld the men's claims for racial discrimination and unfair dismissal at an earlier hearing in January.

After the award yesterday Mr Sahota, of Camberley, Surrey, said he was delighted that justice had been done.

He said: "I am glad that it is all finally over, it has been a very difficult two years. I will now concentrate on getting on with the rest of my life."

Mr Sahota told the hearing to decide compensation that he and Mr Khan were "stunned" by the loss of their jobs. "I asked myself why was this happening to us. We were the only two people who were isolated in that office.

"After I was sacked I lost all my confidence and dignity. Being made redundant in such a discriminatory way set me back so much, I could not even go out in the street."

Mr Khan, of Wimbledon, south-west London, added: "We were forced to sit in a corner . The isolation was misery. When you are confined to yourself, you spend a lot of time just thinking about yourself.

"We were segregated to one corner of the building and we were not given any work. If in this civilised world, somebody segregates you due to your colour or race, then I am sure it is a great shame."

Lloyd's moved the men, who certify the safety of off-shore oil rigs for insurance, back to its Croydon office in October 1993, after the off- shore work died down. Six months later they were sacked.

But in a memo dated 11 October 1993, the manager of the department made clear his intention to sack them. In the office there were 28 white workers and only four other non-whites.

Mr Boothe said in his ruling: "Following the end of their secondment, they were returned to the main [Croydon] office and both were left in an isolated part of the building.

"Management said that this was because they were awaiting reassignment to other tasks. The applicants claim that no white employee was treated in that way, an assertion we accept.

"They further claimed they were being isolated in order to prove that they were redundant.

"In the memo dated the 11 October 1993, the manager has made up his mind they were redundant, but the applicants were not told about this until March 1994."

The exact compensation figure was due to be released today.