27th Apr 2012
A male air steward who sued British Airways because a female colleague called him “darling” has had his case dismissed by an employment tribunal.
Rothstein Williams, who is 42 years old and a Seventh Day Adventist, sued the airline for discrimination on religious grounds.
According to the Daily Telegraph, during a pre-hearing review of the case, he told the tribunal panel in Reading that he regarded the term ‘darling’ as an insult and added that not using his first name was an offense to his religion.
A female flight attendant had used the endearment after asking him to take some glasses from her. “I said I was Rothstein,” Williams said. “The woman then said that she regularly called people ‘darling’ and that passengers liked it. I said ‘you would not call first class passengers ‘darling’ – or senior flight crew ‘darling’’”.
But British Airways argued that the term was often used out of convenience because of the huge number of cabin crew who worked together but could not necessarily remember each other’s names.
Own actions at fault
Williams said that he was “shaken up” when the female flight attendant reacted angrily to his comments, however, and that relations between them had been frosty on other flights as she refused to speak to him. He made a formal complaint against her after the dispute in May 2010, but said that the matter had been resolved by them both shaking hands on it.
Nonetheless, Judge Jessica Hill ruled that Williams’ claim did not have any legal basis and dismissed it, saying that it could not be heard by a tribunal as he could not prove that he had been discriminated against.
She also rejected allegations that he had been harassed for reading a Bible by a male colleague. “He said it was a strange thing to do and it was playing mind games with the crew. I stated that was not a nice thing to do. It was my belief and if I choose to ready my Bible, I can do so,” Williams said.
But the Judge pointed out that the words had not been said directly to Williams himself, but rather to a disciplinary meeting with senior BA staff over his behaviour. The panel had sided with the witness who said that Williams had not been reading, but had instead been writing down notes about his colleagues.
Williams, who has been suspended but is still working for BA, said that he had been left feeling depressed and was being treated with anti-depressants. But the Judge said that it was his actions towards colleagues that had led to disciplinary action and suspension rather than anything else.
“I cannot see how someone calling you ‘darling’ is going to be accepted by a tribunal as offensive to our religion and beliefs,” she added.