A Lloyds Bank manager who was sacked after he inadvertently used the N-word while seeking advice during race education training has won a discrimination and unfair dismissal case.

Carl Borg-Neal, former mayor of Test Valley, raised a question over what to do if he heard a black colleague using the racial epithet but accidentally said it in full.

Mr Borg-Neal asked it with no malice, the question was 'valid', and he immediately apologised, an employment tribunal heard.

The purpose of the race education session was to explore 'intention vs. effect' and attendees were encouraged to 'speak freely' and 'learn and be clumsy', the hearing was told.

The trainer carrying out the 'Race Education for Line Managers’ session was so 'distressed' after Mr Borg-Neal said the word she was off work for five days, it was heard.

Mr Borg-Neal - a former Mayor and councillor - then found himself at the centre of a racism investigation and fired for gross misconduct.

The 58-year-old, who spent a total of 26 years at Lloyds, was so devastated by the ordeal that his 'mental and physical health was severely damaged'.

Now, the tribunal has ruled Lloyds unfairly sacked Mr Borg-Neal as although it was an 'ill-judged' use of words there was 'no intention to cause hurt' on his part and it was a 'well-intentioned relevant question'.

Andover Advertiser: Carl Borg-Neal, from Andover, former Test Valley mayor

There were 'very unusual and particular circumstances' and 'no reasonable employer would have dismissed' him, the tribunal ruled.

It also found Mr Borg-Neal's dyslexia affects his vocabulary and his ability to carefully formulate questions, causing him to blurt out the word in the 'heat of the moment'.

He is now in line to receive compensation after successfully suing Lloyds for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination.

The tribunal in central London heard Mr Borg-Neal, from Andover, worked for Lloyds from 1993 to 2002, then after being made redundant for two years he joined again in 2004.

Mr Borg-Neal was a manager in Lloyds' payments department and at the time of the session on Microsoft Teams in July 2021, he was a mentor on the mentoring scheme to three workers from varying backgrounds.

A tribunal report said: "At a relevant point during one of the race education training sessions, which was discussing intent vs. effect, he was asked how he should handle a situation where he heard someone from an ethnic minority use a word that might be considered offensive if used by someone not within that minority.

"He was thinking partly about rap music.

"When he did not get an immediate response from the trainer, he added, ‘the most common example being the use of the N-word in the black community’.

"Unfortunately he used the full word rather than the abbreviation."

The trainer, Naomi Osei, was so upset by what he said she had to take several days off work.

A formal investigation was started by Lloyds.

Anonymous witnesses said Mr Borg-Neal used the word but that there was 'no malice'.

One said: "I was shocked by the manner and tone used by one presenter to a colleague.

"After saying at the beginning this would be a safe environment and it is acknowledged we may make mistakes, she launched into a vitriolic

"Whilst I do not condone what the colleague said and there could have been a better way of saying it, I believe he was trying to ask a valid
question to aid understanding."

Andover Advertiser: Carl Borg-Neal, from Andover, former Test Valley mayor

Following an investigation, Mr Borg-Neal was found to have committed gross misconduct.

His dismissal letter said: "[The term] is a racially-loaded and offensive word which is totally unacceptable in the workplace, and as such, contravenes the values of the group as an anti-racist organisation."

At his appeal - which failed - Mr Borg-Neal said: "I very deeply regret that my ill-judged comment had this impact. It was never my intention to cause this reaction and for that, I am deeply remorseful."

Employment Judge Tamara Lewis said Mr Borg-Neal 'had in mind, in particular, the use of the N-word by black people in rap lyrics or to each other when playing basketball' but that there was no malice.

Judge Lewis said: "The tribunal believes the Bank was entirely reasonable to hold the view that the full N-word is an appalling word which should always be avoided in a professional environment; and even if no malice was intended... simply hearing it said is likely to be intensely painful and shocking for black people because it may well echo other discriminatory experiences.

"The tribunal suspects the Bank felt that not dismissing Mr Borg-Neal would somehow be condoning the use of the word.

"In many circumstances, that may be true. But in the very unusual and particular circumstances of this case, the tribunal finds that no reasonable employer would have dismissed him.

"The very particular circumstances are that this took place at a race education training session, where the whole purpose was to explore intention vs. effect, and for the attendees to learn.

"The Bank accepted that the question was without malice. It was not a matter of him using an opportunity to say the word under the guise of an ‘innocent’ question.

"The word was not used as a term of abuse towards anyone. It was not used as a word to describe anyone. It was used in what the dismissing officer said was a good question.

"Mr Borg-Neal wanted to learn. He apologised immediately and continued to apologise throughout the disciplinary process. He never used the full word again.

"There was no evidence that he had ever said or done anything racially discriminatory before. If the Bank wanted to make a point, it could have given him a warning and more training, as he suggested himself.

"The evidence is clear that on occasion Mr Borg-Neal is unable properly to express what he is thinking because of his dyslexia.

"On the balance of probabilities, we find his dyslexia did make it harder for him to do so on this occasion; it made it harder to formulate his question about the use of the N-word, which in turn led him to use the N-word in full."

The judge added: "The impact on (him) was enormous. He lost a job where he had found he could excel with his dyslexia.

"He was a longstanding employee. His mental and physical health were severely damaged."

Mr Borg-Neal's lawyer Emma Hamnett, partner at Doyle Clayton, said: “Our client fought tirelessly to keep his job throughout a protracted and delayed disciplinary process.

"He was ignored. He explained over and again to Lloyds that his use of the N-word in full was not intentional, not intended to cause upset and he offered many apologies.

"The Tribunal’s judgement is a reminder that an employer has to consider 'context' in deciding whether to dismiss.

"This is a heartbreaking case because of the devastating effect on Carl’s mental and physical health."

Compensation will be decided at a later date.