Rail conductor sues former employer after being sacked for questioning ‘black privilege’

Simon Isherwood, 60, from Northampton made the comments during diversity training on “white privilege”

Published

A rail conductor is suing his former employer after being sacked for questioning “black privilege”.

Simon Isherwood, 60, from Northampton made the comments during online diversity training on “white privilege”, a tribunal will hear.

As a result, Mr Isherwood was dismissed for gross misconduct from West Midlands Trains (WMT) in March last year.

Mr Isherwood claims he accidentally forgot to turn his microphone off during the seminar, meaning all other attendees heard the comment.

Simon Isherwood is suing West Midlands Trains
Simon Isherwood is suing West Midlands Trains

Towards the end of the training, he was heard saying to his wife: “I couldn’t be a**** because I thought, ‘you know what, I’ll just get f****** angry’.

“You know what I really wanted to ask?... and I wish I had, do they have black privilege in other countries? So, if you’re in Ghana?...”

Mr Isherwood said he made the comment to his wife because he thought the trainers leading the session were “indoctrinating their view on us” that “implied all white people are racist - but I’m not”.

Mr Isherwood made the comments during online diversity training
Mr Isherwood made the comments during online diversity training

The remarks were slammed by other employees, who told bosses they were “disgusted” and “angered”.

After an internal disciplinary probe, West Midlands Trains sacked Mr Isherwood, claiming the comments “caused offence, brought the company into disrepute and breached our equality, diversity and inclusion policy and the code of conduct".

But now he is taking his former employer to an employment tribunal, saying his dismissal was “unfair, unreasonable and unlawful.”

He claims that his dismissal was down to the “WMT’s fear of facing allegations from colleagues about my conduct”.

The case will take place in Watford on Thursday and Friday.

Mr Isherwood said: “I am completely shocked, I was at home in my own time talking to my wife, it was a private conversation. I had no idea anyone was listening to me.

“I’ve lost my job, my income, my reputation, my health is absolutely shot to pieces. I’d worked there for 11 and a half years and never had anything but promotion, praise and awards and even now I can't believe it.

“All I was trying to do was understand the subject better - we had been asked to think of questions so I did exactly what I was asked to do. I said Ghana because it’s something I always used to talk about with one of my colleagues, who is from Ghana and supported me,” he told The Telegraph.