Bank manager fired for using N word awarded up to $637,000 in damages


A bank manager who was fired when he used the N-word in an anti-racism seminar has received up to £500,000 ($637,000) in damages after judges ruled he acted without malice and used the word as a result of his dyslexia.

Carl Borg-Neal was sacked by the British bank Lloyds in 2021 after upsetting an instructor when he used the offensive slur during an online class discussing race in the workplace. 

Lloyds ‘went too far’

The offending statement took place during a segment of the class that examined intent vs effect in racially charged language, according to a published ruling.

Borg-Neal had asked the trainer of the class how he should handle a situation when someone from an ethnic minority uses a word that might be considered offensive if used by someone not within that minority.

When the instructor didn’t respond, Borg-Neal followed up by saying: “The most common example being use of the N-word in the black community.” However, he used the full word rather than the abbreviation.

Lloyds accepted that Borg-Neal acted without malice, had apologized immediately after using the word, and that the question was fair, but determined he should have known better than to use the slur in a professional environment. 

The trainer of the seminar also took several days off following the incident, encouraging Lloyds to take its decision to dismiss the manager.

Last year, an employment tribunal ruled that Lloyds went too far when it decided to fire Borg-Neal for using the slur and that it didn’t need to dismiss him to show its stance on offensive language. 

“If the Bank wanted to make a point, it could have given the claimant a warning and more training, as he suggested himself,” the tribunal wrote.

The tribunal added that Borg-Neal’s dyslexia can “lead him to keep reformulating questions and to ‘spurt’ things out before he loses his train of thought.” 

He now stands to receive up to $637,000 in damages, his lawyers told Bloomberg, after the tribunal said he faces several obstacles to returning to work following the dismissal, particularly his need to recover from an anxiety and depressive disorder he developed as a result of the incident. 

The damages include past and future loss of earnings, injury to feelings and personal injury, as well as interest fees.

It is more than half the £1.2 million ($1.5 million) Borg-Neal sought to retrieve after winning his unfair dismissal claim last October.

While Lloyds initially challenged the tribunal’s decision, a spokesperson for the bank told Fortune it now accepts the ruling. 

Middle-aged white men are ‘bottom of everything’

Borg-Neal has consistently said he wanted to keep his job at Lloyds, telling the Telegraph he would have accepted a pay cut or a demotion rather than being dismissed and branded a racist.

“The impact on the claimant was enormous,” the tribunal wrote. “He lost a job where he had found he could excel with his dyslexia. The impact on the claimant was enormous.”

However, while it agreed that Borg-Neal was dismissed unfairly and faced disability discrimination, the tribunal rejected Borg-Neal’s claim that he was discriminated against based on race when he was fired. 

The tribunal said it didn’t believe “any substantial part of the dismissal was that the claimant was white.”

But Borg-Neal, who is a local councilor for the U.K. Conservative Party, is still suggesting his race was behind his dismissal at the bank. 

“I often wonder if I wasn’t a white middle-aged male would I have had to go through everything I went through,” Borg-Neal told the Telegraph in an interview last week. 

“There is no way of telling. But when I talk to my friends—and as you can imagine a good many are white, middle-aged, and male—we all agree that is the worst thing you can be right now. You are bottom of everything.”

Borg Neal’s lawyers didn’t immediately respond to Fortune’s request for comment.

U.K. banks are increasingly finding themselves at the center of political furors tied to a growing culture war in the country.

In July, Natwest Bank was engulfed in a crisis after closing a bank account belonging to Nigel Farage, an ally of Donald Trump and former leader of the right-wing UKIP political party. 

Farage was initially told his account with sister bank Coutts was closed for “commercial reasons” after his balance fell below £1 million, the minimum to hold an account at the bank. 

However, it later emerged that Farage’s account was closed because his views didn’t align with the bank.

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