Rail conductor sues West Midland Trains for gross misconduct sacking

Rail conductor sues West Midland Trains after being sacked for gross misconduct when he was overheard questioning ‘black privilege’ during online diversity training

  • Simon Isherwood, 60, is suing West Midlands Trains after he was dismissed
  • He was accused of gross misconduct when he questioned ‘black privilege’
  • The comments were made after an online diversity training webinar
  • A rail conductor is suing his ex-employer West Midlands Trains after he was sacked for gross misconduct when he was overheard questioning ‘black privilege’ after an online diversity training webinar. 

    Simon Isherwood, 60, was dismissed in March last year after he accidentally left his microphone on, meaning his colleagues overheard him criticising the webinar’s contents.

    The session two months earlier was attended by around 80 staff members from East Midlands Railway, West Midlands Railway and Mr Isherwood’s former company London Northwestern Railway, which is owned by WMT.

    At the end of it, Mr Isherwood was overheard telling his wife: ‘I couldn’t be a**** because I thought, “you know what, I’ll just get f**king 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?…’.

    Ghana has a population that is around 98% black and 2% white, while in the UK 86% are white and 3% are black.

    Mr Isherwood says he made the private remark because he felt diversity trainers in the session were ‘indoctrinating their view on us’ that ‘implied all white people are racist – but I’m not’.

    The webinar, which he voluntarily attended, covered topics including what white privilege is, how to ‘change the privilege and power structures’, and ‘how to be an ally’. 

    Simon Isherwood, 60, was dismissed in March last year after he accidentally left his microphone on, meaning his colleagues overheard him criticising the webinar's contents

    Simon Isherwood, 60, was dismissed in March last year after he accidentally left his microphone on, meaning his colleagues overheard him criticising the webinar’s contents

    His remarks caused colleagues to complain to bosses that they were ‘disgusted’ and ‘angered’, and Mr Isherwood was suspended while an internal disciplinary probe took place.

    Mr Isherwood was sacked after WMT ruled he had ’caused offence, brought the company into disrepute and breached our equality, diversity and inclusion policy and the code of conduct’. 

    He internally appealed in April last year but this was rejected and no further right of appeal was allowed. 

    He is now taking the company to an employment tribunal, to be held in Watford on Thursday and Friday, suing for unfair dismissal. His case is backed by the Free Speech Union.

    Mr Isherwood told The Telegraph: ‘I’ve lost my job, my income, my reputation, my health is absolutely shot to pieces. 

    He is now taking WMT to an employment tribunal, to be held in Watford on Thursday and Friday, suing for unfair dismissal. Stock image used

    He is now taking WMT to an employment tribunal, to be held in Watford on Thursday and Friday, suing for unfair dismissal. Stock image used

    ‘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.’

    The webinar, which he voluntarily attended, covered topics including what white privilege is, how to ‘change the privilege and power structures’, and ‘how to be an ally’.

    WMT hearings found that Mr Isherwood had no record of any previous misconduct, and nothing suggested he was racist.

    It is understood that WMT denies the allegations, believing that Mr Isherwood’s remarks were offensively-expressed and that it was reasonable to treat Mr Isherwood’s conduct as serious misconduct.

    WMT declined to comment while legal proceedings are ongoing.