Muslim in call centre abuse wins £20,000

A MUSLIM worker at a call centre based at the home of Rangers Football Club in Glasgow has been awarded more than £20,000 for racial and religious discrimination, after colleagues abused him for complaining about how they treated Irish and ethnic-minority callers.

James Lipka, 58, who worked for the Student Loans Company and Rangers Projects from Glasgow-based Response Handling's call centre in Ibrox Stadium, complained that workers handling calls for the football club would mimic the accent of Northern Irish callers phoning to buy match tickets.

Mr Lipka, who is Polish, said comments were frequently made suggesting the Irish callers were stupid.

He also claimed call handlers regularly made racist comments regarding those calling about student loans.

Mr Lipka's father came to the UK from Poland during the Second World War as a member of the Free Polish Army. His ancestors were Mongol Tartars, who had gone to live in Poland in the 14th century and retained their Islamic religion.

The abusive comments at his workplace got worse after the bombings in London on 7 July, 2005, with some of the agents becoming openly hostile towards Muslims.

He did transfer to another office, but work pressures forced him back to the call centre, where he lodged a grievance, complaining of racial harassment while working on the student loans and Rangers projects. Within days of his complaint, Mr Lipka was subjected to abusive comments, and these were made every day for several weeks.

The abuse lasted until he left Response Handling in August 2006, but the company denied there had been any racist or religious comments.

In his written judgment yesterday, an employment tribunal judge, Stewart Watt, said: "The tribunal has no doubt that this conduct, viewed in any reasonable way, must have the objective effect of violating Mr Lipka's dignity and creating an intimidating hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for him."

The tribunal also said the company's human resources manager had attempted to sweep the complaint under the carpet.

Mr Lipka was awarded 15,000 for injury to his feelings, an additional 3,750 as the company had failed to follow the statutory grievance procedure, and 3,718 in interest.

However, his claim for constructive dismissal was rejected, on the grounds that the reason he left was the shift pattern and the effect on his health.

Mr Lipka said: "I am pleased that I won. I feel I was treated appallingly and the public should know what goes on at these call centres and how they are treated.

"I am extremely disappointed that I didn't get an apology from (Response Handling]. I said at the beginning that was what I wanted, and I am still waiting."