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IT expert wins dismissal case following racist attack

SUCCESS: Richard Hastings won his discrimination case against King's College Hospital (Photo credit: Jordan Walters/Frass Snaps Ltd)

AN EMPLOYMENT tribunal against King's College Hospital has found the organisation guilty of racial discrimination, after an IT professional was dismissed on the grounds of gross misconduct following an incident in the hospital’s car park.

The hearing, presented in March 2017 and the verdict, announced in August, also found the hospital liable for unfair dismissal tainted by ‘unconscious bias’. A third allegation of victimisation was unfounded.

The claimant, Richard Hastings, spoke exclusively to The Voice about his ordeal. He said: “From the point of my suspension, it was always going to end up the way it did. It was awful.

“I worked for an organisation that was inherently racist and their true colours were revealed throughout the disciplinary process that I went through.”

Hastings, a black British man of Caribbean descent, began working for King's College Hospital in December 1996 as a Network Analyst and promoted to ICT Infrastructure Manager in October 2013.

He was suspended in July 2015 and then dismissed on the grounds of gross misconduct following an incident which occurred on July 29, 2015 in the hospital car park where a third-party delivery driver racially abused and assaulted him.

The driver, as admitted in his own statement, assaulted Hastings, was racially abusive and was described as being “extremely provocative".

Hastings accidentally struck back while defending himself. Throughout his almost two-decade tenure at King's College Hospital, Mr. Hastings' record was unblemished and exemplar; he hadn't been subject to a disciplinary before.

The tribunal heard how Hastings called the hospital’s security office for assistance. However, no record of the phone call was logged and nobody came to his aid. Despite this, Hastings was treated as the aggressor throughout the disciplinary process. The tribunal found key opportunities to help establish his innocence were ignored.

The investigating officer, who was appointed by the trust to look into the incident, repeatedly made reference to witnesses who gave evidence against the claimant Hastings as ‘victims' and, when questioned about it during the tribunal, dismissed it as a turn of phrase. When Hastings’ solicitor rang to tell him the good news, he was shopping with his children.

“I think my solicitor thought I was going to be ecstatic but I wasn’t. I don’t get any satisfaction or happiness from the fact that the decision was found in my favour, because the job that I had for almost 19 years, I don’t have any more. The whole thing was just so unfair from start to finish.

“It’s really changed me. I was a different person to what I am now. It’s more than scarred me, it’s hurt me so deeply."

He added: “There is a level of anger that I’m feeling, but more a sense of loss because being at King’s was a part of my life for so long. I was 28 when I started there and it was just before my 47th birthday when I got my letter, confirming that I’d been dismissed.”

Finding new work has been a struggle for Hastings, who has applied for more than 2,000 jobs and been for 25 interviews. Other than a fixed-term contract in another NHS role from February to November 2016, Richard has been unemployed.

“It is difficult and demoralising. I do feel like a failure, to be fair, because I’m not doing what I should be. As a man, I should be supporting my family and I’m not doing that. I was on a salary of about £60,000 when I was at King's and I’ve since applied for jobs where they’re offering below £40,000 and been asked by panels why I’m not applying for higher salary roles, with my skillset and experience.

“I can’t say, ‘Because I’m desperate’. That’s not going to get me anywhere. If my options were open, then I wouldn’t be applying for those roles. I’m trying to start my career all over again.”

The 49-year-old has been treated for depression, anxiety and insomnia. His compensatory award hearing, due to be held in April, has been postponed until the end of November. The IT professional said he is looking forward to closure.

“My life has been on hold and I’m just hoping that we can just get it out of the way. My claim is very high but I’ve lost an awful lot. It’s unlikely that we can implicate change overnight, but if we get people being upfront and come forward to bring up incidents they’re experiencing, where they’re being treated unfairly because of the colour of their skin, then we can start to hold organisations that uphold these practices to account.”

A statement in the equality and diversity section on the hospital's website reads: “We actively promote fairness, justice and equality of opportunity to ensure that all our services and employment policies are free from discrimination.”

A spokesperson for the King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust told The Voice: “As the employment tribunal litigation is ongoing, it would not be appropriate for the Trust to comment. However, we are proud to be a major multicultural employer serving one of the most diverse communities in the UK."

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