A love triangle employee is suing Leeds City Council after he claims he was harassed, bullied and isolated as part of a two-year campaign by colleagues once his affair ended.
Lakhbeer Barn, 40, from Newlay, Horsforth, Leeds secretly recorded co-workers’ after-work pub conversations and took screen grabs of their private instant messenger exchanges to compile his dossier of evidence, a Leeds employment tribunal heard.
Among his claims is that colleagues at the council’s contact centre in Westgate mocked him because of his Sikh Asian ethnic origin and his brother’s disability.
Tensions were sparked in 2007 after Mr Barn and his former friend and five-a-side pal Ian Bratley both fell for another female colleague, Kelly Newton.
A relationship between Mr Barn and Miss Newton ensued but later ended, he told the hearing, because her friends dispapproved of the mixed-race relationship.
The two men’s friendship fizzled out and, Mr Barn claims this led to a campaign of bullying and harassment by other colleagues against him. Mr Bratley later became Miss Newton’s boyfriend, the tribunal was told.
The panel heard Mr Barn believed there was a “concerted campaign” to isolate him, which was triggered by “vicious” rumours about his conduct which were never substantiated.
He also claims senior management were complicit in the alleged harassment and failed to take the necessary action when he complained.
Mr Barn was part of a large team at Leeds City Council’s contact centre, where he was an operational support officer, and Mr Bratley a customer services officer, when tensions started rising.
Mr Bratley told the Leeds tribunal he had no idea his former pal was pursuing a claim until managers informed him and several others. He had thought the fallout was “all over a girl”.
Asked if he ever made any “bullying gestures” such as raising a middle finger or mimicking punching and elbowing gestures aimed at Mr Barn, he said: “certainly not”.
He admitted both he and Mr Barn had a romantic interest in Miss Newton, and during a conversation, he had shown his frustrations and lashed out at his friend.
“I was shocked when I found out that Lakhy thought myself and others had discriminated against him,” he told the hearing.
“There WAS hostility. We were friends, and then we weren’t friends, but I had no idea that he had a problem with anyone else. I thought it was all over a girl.
“I accept we had a fallout but as far as bullying and discrimination goes, I had no idea.”
The tribunal was shown screen grabs of email exchanges between Mr Bratley and Miss Newton in which reference was made to Mr Barn’s bullying allegations and where, he claims, derogatory comments were made about him.
Among the alleged comments were “he is going to end up in a psychiatric ward”.
Mr Barn, who is representing himself in the tribunal, read out transcripts of colleagues’ conversations in the pub, which he had secretly recorded when tensions reached a climax.
The tribunal heard issues had been bubbling since 2007 but they only came to light when Mr Barn logged an official grievance in June 2009.
Mr Barn is currently suspended from his job.
The tribunal continues.