In the case of Mr L Kabzinski v Vistajet International Limited a Polish private jet company worker has lost a race discrimination claim after a colleague told him ‘you’re fired – there’s no gipsy work for you’ – as a tribunal ruled the jibe was a ‘jovial’ reference to Borat.
Lukasz Kabzinski claimed he had been subjected to discrimination from a workmate who repeatedly called him a ‘gipsy’.
But an employment tribunal ruled that the jibes were ‘jovial’ and were ‘in the context of friendly exchanges’ between Mr Kabzinski and colleague Daniel Beahan about their shared love of the movie character Borat, created by Sacha Baron Cohen.
The tribunal heard that Mr Beahan called Mr Kabzinski a ‘typical gipsy’ after telling him ‘You are cheap boy’, as well as commenting ‘in front of everyone… that most of Poles in the UK are criminals or most of foreign criminals in the UK are Poles.’
The pair worked for Vistajet International, an aviation company which provides private jets for charter flights, where Mr Kabzinski was employed for two years before being sacked on December 17, 2020.
He worked in the company’s London-based marketing department, and was located in a small office next to Mr Beahan’s desk.
They did not work together, but ‘spent a lot of time with each other’ socialising and going to bars and restaurants and sharing lots of phone messages about non-work matters.
Mr Beahan, an account manager for the company, sent WhatsApp messages to Mr Kabzinski – who describes himself as being of Eastern European descent – saying ‘you are good gipsy’ and ‘hello my little gipsy’.
They also shared links to video clips from another Cohen creation – the Ali G Show – and of Borat, the fictional Kazakhstani journalist from the 2006 mockumentary film.
Even though he did not raise complaints during his employment, Mr Kabzinski told the court these interactions left him feeling ‘hopeless’ and increased his ‘sense of alienation and workplace victimisation’.
However, the London Central tribunal found that this Borat banter was in reference to the comedy character, who makes numerous comments about ‘gipsies’ in the original film.
Employment judge Beyzade Beyzade said: ‘We have seen WhatsApp messages and other private messages in which both the claimant and Mr Beahan use the term ‘gipsy’ or related terms, and we consider that this was in the context of friendly exchanges that they repeatedly had.
‘We find that the reason behind these comments were the relationship between the claimant and Mr Beahan and the jovial nature of the comments.
‘They frequently made comments to each other which they perceived to be humorous.
‘They had shared interests including in terms of the character of Borat and this informed the nature of comments that they exchanged.
‘We are satisfied that the remarks made by Mr Beahan were in no sense whatsoever connected with race.’
Mr Kabzinski’s complaint of direct race discrimination and harassment related to race were dismissed.
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