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19th December 2023

British Army Rastafarian Guardsman Wins Claim Against MOD

Royal Guards marching

The employment tribunal has ruled that the Claimant’s claim of direct race discrimination, racial harassment and victimisation was successful in D Pile-Grey v Ministry of Defence. The tribunal has not yet published the amount of damages awarded.

Mr Pile-Gray was one of the first Rastafarian guardsmen and had a career in the army stretching over 16 years. However, the Army career was brought to an end following a row with a guard. The guard accused Mr Pile-Gray of using the ‘race card’.

Mr. Pile-Gray stated that during his time in the Army, he would be asked questions about his appearance by other guards such as ‘Why are you allowed to wear your hair like that?’ and ‘Don’t you smoke drugs?’.

Mr. Pile-Gray stated that during his employment he had experienced soldiers using racially offensive words such as the N-word whilst in his presence and comments about the size of his genitals. The comments from other soldiers did not stop the Claimant from rising the ranks and becoming a lance sergeant. Mr Pile-Gray stated that he was under no illusion of what he might encounter when joining the army in 2005 but was full of optimism and enjoyed his job.

In July 2021 the Claimant had an argument with two soldiers at the guardroom to his base. Mr. Pile-Gray had mistakenly left his ID card behind which he went back to retrieve. He was wearing civilian clothes, sunglasses and had his locks on display. The lance corporal on duty did not believe Mr Pile-Gray could be a soldier. The lance corporal then accused him of ‘playing the race card’ when confronted about this. A sergeant overheard the conversation and stated ‘look at my office’, pointing out that it was multicultural, adding ‘we can’t be racist’.

The Claimant lost his temper and was then escorted out of the guardroom. He was later told that he would be facing disciplinary action and then given a formal charge of insubordination. The Claimant stated that he felt his feelings had been disregarded and he could no longer continue with the organisation.

The Claimant had made a service complaint which was rejected. Mr. Pile-Gray therefore decided to claim with the employment tribunal concerning direct race discrimination, racial harassment and victimisation.

Emma Norton, who provided legal support to the Claimant stated “Not only did the chain of command fail to act on his concerns about racial bias, it then victimised and gas-lit him for having the temerity to complain about it”.

The Ministry of Defence has stated that they do not tolerate discrimination of any kind and that they are actively encouraging their personnel to report unacceptable behaviours. The case highlights the importance of thoroughly investigating and taking seriously any claims or complaints of racism or discrimination based on race. In addition to this, employers should aim for a culture where everyone accepts that racial discrimination is not acceptable and promote the benefits of a diverse and inclusive organisation.

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