Bus driver from Liverpool who claimed boss ‘mocking accent’ was form of racism loses tribunal

Mr Ryan was so ‘offended’ by what he believed was a reference to this stereotype

Solent News
Wednesday 27 October 2021 10:14
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<p>Antony Ryan felt ‘insulted’ after being told to ‘calm down, calm down’ </p>

Antony Ryan felt ‘insulted’ after being told to ‘calm down, calm down’

A Liverpudlian bus driver has lost an employment tribunal after claiming his boss mocking him with Harry Enfield's famous 'Scousers' sketch was a form of racism.

Antony Ryan, who was 'born and grew up' in the Merseyside city, felt 'insulted' after being told to 'calm down, calm down' by Margaret Robertson.

As part of Enfield's impression, moustachioed, shell-suited and permed 'Scousers' would nearly come to blows before one eased the tension with the famous catchphrase 'eh, alright, alright, calm down, calm down.’

Mr Ryan was so 'offended' by what he believed was a reference to this stereotype, he missed two days work and was later sacked for unauthorised absence from his Scottish-based firm.

He then brought the company before an employment tribunal.

But his claims were dismissed as although the comment may have been 'unprofessional' and 'uncalled for', the panel ruled his race discrimination failed as he was not being mocked for his English 'national origin'.

Mr Ryan first started working for R Robertson & Son Ltd, a coach hire service operating in Shetland, Scotland, in August 2020.

The panel heard during a grievance meeting, Mrs Robertson 'mocked' Mr Ryan's accent, telling him and a colleague, Lee Cox: "You boys need to go and calm down, calm down."

The tribunal, held remotely from Scotland, heard Mr Ryan was 'extremely offended', 'insulted' and believed that he was 'discriminated against and ridiculed'.

Mr Ryan was 'so stressed' he went home from work and sent a text saying: “I feel so insulted and disgusted at present and am in no frame of mind to work at present.”

The tribunal heard he did not turn up the following day either.

He was fired in January this year for 'inappropriate conduct' and 'unauthorised absence'.

Mr Ryan then made numerous claims against his former employer including discrimination on the ground of protected characteristic of race (national origin).

He argued if he had not been spoken to in an unprofessional manner, he would not have felt 'insulted, ridiculed and offended' and therefore would not have missed work on those two days.

But the panel - headed by employment judge James Young - concluded that it was not a medical reason to miss work.

It found he was not discriminated against as the comment only related to Mr Ryan being from Liverpool and not England.

It concluded: "The 'catchphrase' seemed to relate to use of the words 'calm down, calm down' in a Liverpool accent.

"The discrimination claim is wholly reliant on the use of those words.

"Mr Ryan is from Liverpool and it is because he hails from that city that he took offence.

"I agree that the alleged comment could mock Mr Ryan as a Liverpudlian but not as an English person.

"I do not consider that simply because that city is based in England that Mr Ryan was being mocked for being English and so mocked on account of his national origin.

"The alleged words used could only refer to a very specific comic stereotype of a Liverpudlian and not directly or by inference a reference to national origin.

"The comment may well have been unprofessional or uncalled for but it is not in my view discriminatory because there was no mocking of the claimant on account of his national origin namely being English.

"The phrase used was not indicative of discrimination against English people and so the claimant could not have been discriminated against."

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