An NHS trust has paid a former IT manager £1 million in damages more than three years after a white van driver ‘racially abused’ him outside a hospital.
Richard Hastings, 50, dedicated nearly 19 years of his working life to King’s College Hospital in south London, but when the driver painted him as the aggressor, he was soon fired for gross misconduct.
As he sits down in his kitchen, he explains how his career, family and mental health were ‘ripped apart’ during a process of racial discrimination by one of London’s biggest black and minority ethnic (BME) employers.
He told Metro.co.uk: ‘It’s put me under so much pressure. I’ve suffered physically and mentally, I really have.
‘I’ve been taking sleeping tablets because I don’t sleep. I’ve been taking antidepressants. I see a psychiatrist. I’ve been having counseling and undergoing therapy.
‘This is the psychological and physical strain that this whole discrimination process has put on me.’
Richard was trying to park his car at the hospital in July 2015 when he got into a dispute with a white van driver, who he says was speeding.
The driver, who was with two other men, allegedly swore at him, calling him a ‘c***’ and ‘f***ing stupid’ when Richard tried to take down his registration number.
There was a ‘war of words’ and when he brushed past one of the men, the driver allegedly said ‘careful it doesn’t come off’ in a ‘racially-charged’ comment.
The driver then allegedly said ‘that’s not your real name’ when Richard gave his ‘English-sounding’ name.
What followed was an investigation ‘poisoned’ with ‘unconscious bias’ that saw the white van driver turned into a ‘victim’ and Richard treated with unjustified distrust.
An employment tribunal heard how the investigating officer even admitted his own bias, when he said he treated Richard’s allegations about being racially abused with ‘skepticism’.
Richard said this bias ended up ‘poisoning’ the disciplinary and appeal hearing.
The tribunal found the officer placed ‘undue weight’ on CCTV evidence, which appeared to show Hastings pushing the driver, and failed to investigate his racial complaints.
The judgment stated: ‘The tribunal has found as a fact that during the investigatory hearing the claimant [Hastings] provided evidence of racial abuse and of foul and offensive language being directed at him, but this was not investigated. We conclude that by failing to investigate this the claimant was treated less favorably because of race.’
Richard believes he is not the only person at King’s College Hospital – which has hundreds of BME employees – to have gone through a ‘process of discrimination’.
The hospital trust’s own ‘Improvement Plan for Race Equality’ found BME employees were 2.75 times more likely to enter a formal disciplinary process than other staff. He said: ‘They’re quite happy to downtrod the ethnic minorities and that’s what has happened here.
‘Maybe this will make them look at the victims and say “maybe we have to change,” but maybe they will just continue the way they are.’
He says he has applied for ‘thousands’ of jobs ever since his dismissal, but has not found a permanent job because his main reference for the past two decades is the same employer who unfairly sacked him. Richard said he was offered £1 million by the hospital trust as compensation for his pension loss.
It was offered a day before a remedy hearing on Wednesday, which was about to hear all the evidence of race discrimination found at the tribunal. Fearing the ‘breakdown of their family’ if the process went on any longer, Richard accepted the settlement.