Employee accuses M&S of prejudice over Asian accent

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The Independent Online

A security worker for Marks & Spencer, who had recorded vital CCTV footage of the IRA Manchester bomb, was told to stop making public announcements because of her Asian accent, a tribunal heard yesterday.

Pravita Parmar, 40, is claiming racial discrimination against theretailer after her line manager allegedly told her she was no longer suitable to use the loudspeaker system.

The incident happened on May Day last year at the St Mary's Gate flagship store, which opened in Manchester's rebuilt city centre in 1999 after the IRA attack five years ago.

Ms Parmar, who is of Indian origin, said her career had progressed without problems until that May, when staff were placed on alert for the anti-capitalist demonstrations planned across Britain.

The tribunal heard that security workers had been briefed earlier on emergency procedures and announcements.

But on the day of the protests Ms Parmar was allegedly told by her line manager, Rachel Vollands, that she could no longer use the public address system because of her accent.

Ms Parmar was responsible for training the store's cameras on a van carrying the IRA bomb minutes before it exploded, the employment tribunal in Manchester heard. The footage was broadcast around the world in an attempt to trace the bombers, who have never been caught. The case continues.

* A former marketing executive for American Express won an out-of-court settlement yesterday from a manager who allegedly joked that he had given her a book called 101 Things to Do With a Dead Baby while she was pregnant. Vanessa Brennan, 33, of central London, won an undisclosed sum from Michael Rutter.