Black investment banker who sued bosses for race discrimination after his colleagues suggested a team meeting at Nando’s because he ‘liked chicken’ loses tribunal
A black investment banker has sued for race discrimination after his colleagues suggested they hold a team meeting at Nando’s because he ‘liked chicken’.
George Gyimah accused coworker Bastian Buhlmann of racism because ‘loving chicken was a derogatory caricature about black people’.
The £85,000-a-year Senior Vice President at Commerzbank also alleged Mr Buhlmann offered him poultry ‘as a reward in a jovial manner’ if he could have his window-facing desk.
An employment tribunal ruled the remarks were made not because Mr Gyimah was black – but because he liked chicken.
The panel said his colleagues at the bank were ‘not aware’ of any stereotype about black people loving chicken and dismissed his claims of race discrimination, harassment and victimisation.
George Gyimah accused coworker Bastian Buhlmann (pictured) of racism because ‘loving chicken was a derogatory caricature about black people’
The London hearing was told Mr Gyimah joined Commerzbank as Senior VP Financial Crime Quality Assurance in July 2018.
Mr Buhlmann is the Financial Crime Quality Assurance functional lead at the company.
The tribunal heard he submitted a grievance to his bosses in February 2020 including allegations against fellow team member Mr Buhlmann.
It read: ‘On two occasions within the last four months, Bastian Buhlmann has used comments that have a derogatory meaning towards me.
The London hearing was told Mr Gyimah joined Commerzbank as Senior VP Financial Crime Quality Assurance in July 2018 (file image)
‘[He] referred to my choice of requiring a place that served fried chicken for a team lunch.
‘[He] offered me chicken as a reward in a jovial manner when the team were having a discussion about our new desk location.’
Mr Buhlmann said during a team lunch in October 2019 there were large queues at all restaurants near the office except Nando’s.
He said he suggested going there because Mr Gyimah liked chicken and said words to the effect of: ‘Why don’t we go to Nando’s, George, you like chicken.’
Mr Gyimah also claimed after he had been allocated a desk in the office with a view, Mr Buhlmann made a further remark about chicken: ‘Give me your desk and I will give you chicken,’ in November 2019.
Mr Buhlmann denied this second comment was made, and insisted any reference about how Mr Gyimah liked chicken was because he had previously told them this and not because he was black.
The tribunal heard in February 2019 Mr Gyimah, Mr Buhlmann and fellow colleague Jose Arevalo were on a work trip to the Frankfurt head office.
The panel ruled his colleagues at the bank were ‘not aware’ of any stereotype about black people loving chicken and dismissed his claims of race discrimination, harassment and victimisation. Pictured, the Commerzbank London office
Mr Arevalo and Mr Gyimah ordered chicken burgers one evening at their hotel. Mr Buhlmann told the tribunal Mr Gyimah said ‘he ordered a chicken burger as he loved chicken’ in a humorous way.
Mr Buhlmann told the tribunal Mr Gyimah mentioned liking chicken several times in the office and gave an example where he commented on his wife cooking his favourite chicken dinner.
Mr Arevalo recalled a conversation when he was talking about attending a birthday meal for a friend at a restaurant with an ‘all you can eat’ buttermilk fried chicken buffet and Mr Gyimah said he liked chicken and asked for the name of the restaurant.
Bosses agreed the comments were made due to him liking chicken, not because he was black, and his grievance was dismissed.
He later resigned and took the German banking giant to a tribunal.
The tribunal accepted that there is a racist stereotype around black people liking fried chicken. However, it concluded this had nothing to do with the remarks made to Mr Gyimah.
Employment Judge Natasha Joffe said: ‘None of the tribunal panel were aware of any stereotype about black people and chicken per se as opposed to fried chicken.
‘That does not mean that there is no such stereotype, but we considered that it is certainly not so well known that a reasonable person could conclude that Mr Buhlmann must have chosen to speak of Mr Gyimah’s professed liking for chicken because it played into a stereotype about black people.
‘There was no relationship with race because Mr Buhlmann was not conscious of the stereotype about black people liking chicken.
‘He did not make the remarks because Mr Gyimah was black but because he knew he liked chicken.’