Adrian Ruda joined TEi in Wakefield as a quality assurance engineer. In 2010 he brought a number of claims against his employer, alleging race and sexual orientation discrimination. Most were dismissed by the tribunal which found Mr Ruda’s evidence to be “less than persuasive and less than honest”. However, the complaint that he was called Borat was upheld. This meant that he was subjected to a humiliating and degrading working environment and he was also a victim of direct race discrimination.
Most readers will know that Borat is the comic creation of Sacha Baron Cohen and that he is supposed to come from the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan, which borders Russia and China and is nowhere near Poland. As an aside, a couple of years ago I had the pleasure of entertaining Dastan Yeleukenov from the Kazakh Embassy, who was visiting Merseyside for a performance by the Kazakh Beatles at the Mathew Street Festival. It is fair to say that he had little time for the Borat character and Mr Cohen!
It was an interesting step for the tribunal to take the view that a fictional character from an entirely different country and culture could be insulting to Mr Ruda. Nonetheless, he was awarded £2000 compensation. The employer (which incurred considerable costs in defending the claim) was also ordered to implement a policy directed at avoiding workplace harrassment and bullying and provide training to all its staff, to include explaining to the employees why the treatment to which Mr Ruda was subjected was wrong.
There have been cases in which calling Irish workers “thick paddies” and referring to Hitler and making Nazi salutes to a German worker have resulted in findings of direct race discrimination with reference to the nationalities of the individuals concerned. However, the finding of race discrimination with reference to a fictional character from a completely different country as in this case apears to be a first.