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Leeds-based Romanian joiner wins right to appeal against Citu sacking

Posted: Friday, March 31st, 2023

A Romanian joiner who was told by his boss a foreigner could not lead British workers has been allowed to appeal against his employment tribunal loss, the BBC has reported.

Ionel Ion claimed he was sacked because of his nationality and for disclosing unsafe working practices at Leeds-based housebuilder Citu.

An employment tribunal rejected his claims after a seven-day hearing in May 2021.

An appeal judge has now said the tribunal may have made legal errors.

Ion, who lives in Leeds, worked for Citu for two years before being made redundant in 2020.

The firm initially claimed he had been made redundant to save money, but managers told the tribunal it was because he was "disruptive".

'Overtly racist'

He claimed he was sacked because he was Romanian and because he raised concerns about loud music being played on the building site which he said meant fire alarms could not be heard.

The employment tribunal, which sat in Leeds and was presided over by Judge Philip Lancaster, found it proven that one of Ion's managers told him: "We could not have a foreigner leading a team of Brits."

But the judge concluded that was not why he was made redundant and the tribunal panel was "perfectly satisfied" he was chosen for redundancy because of Ion's "perceived lack of compliance with the stated company values", namely teamwork and "not doing down your colleagues".

At the appeal hearing in London on Wednesday, Andrew Edge representing  Ion, said the manager who made the "overtly racist" comment was also the one who selected the Romanian joiner for dismissal after superiors asked him to choose who should go.

'Glaring evidence'

He said the judge's finding was "hopeless" as it failed to follow the law by considering whether or not an "appropriate hypothetical comparator", for example a British joiner, would have been treated the same way as Ion had in a similar situation.

Edge also said the process of choosing to dismiss Ion was "opaque" and the "racist" comment meant the "burden of proof" should have shifted on to Citu to prove he was not let go because of his nationality rather than for Mr Ion to prove that was the reason for his dismissal.

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