demanding compensation from Camden Council.
Image: Evening Standard.
A lollipop man is suing Camden Council for what he believes to unfair dismissal after he was sacked for an allegedly racist comment made towards his co-worker.
Jamaican-born Jon Seymour, 46, was caught up in a row over a parking meter with council worker Johnson Akinmoyede at Camden Town Hall when he used language that was later deemed to be ‘racially abusive’ by the council.
During the trial the court were told that Mr Akinmoyede had asked Mr Seymour to keep his voice down when the lollipop man retorted: “Who are you, King Kong? I will break you, move away from me.” Seymour was then removed from the building by security guards for the remarks and ‘threatening behaviour.’
Mr Seymour claims that he was wrongly sacked, insisting that his comment was not racist and that he was not behaving in an overly-aggressive manner. Mr Seymour said: “It was not racial. He was getting all angry so it was like he was acting like he was a big strong gorilla, so that's why I called him King Kong.” He added, “My mum is black, I'm black. It is not being racist. It was nothing to do with his colour. No one looks like King Kong.”
Mr Seymour, who has worked for 20 years as a lollipop man outside Carlton Primary School in Kentish Town and enjoyed his job, is now seeking thousands of pounds in compensation from Camden Council.
Christopher Nicola, manager of the council's Smarter Travel Team, has defended Mr Seymour’s comments as not being racist. “He [Mr Seymour] asked how could it be racially abusive if you say something to someone of the same complexion, and that the way they were speaking was a Caribbean thing and they talk like that to each other all the time and that he did not mean any offence,” said Mr Nicola.
Amjad Khan, a security guard who was present and witnessed the entire incident, offered a more balanced version of events. Mr Khan told the court that whilst Mr Seymour had behaved in an unacceptable manner, Mr Akinmoyede had also been 'intimidating' and 'inappropriate' in his behaviour. Khan also recalled that the two men apologised to one another and shook hands following the argument.
Doubt as to whether it was right for Mr Seymour to be sacked has also been voiced by Judge David Pearl. Camden Council’s head of transport strategy, Louise McBride, who oversaw the disciplinary meeting which resulted in Seymour’s dismissal, claimed that CCTV footage showed the lollipop man’s behaviour was “aggressive physically.” Yet, when Judge David Pearl, watched the same CCTV footage, he disagreed that Mr Seymour’s body language was aggressive. “Where’s the aggressive body language? [...] The claimant does nothing [physically] aggressive here,” said Judge Pearl.
Speaking about losing his job, Mr Seymour has said: “It's made my life hell and until now I have never been unemployed in my life.” He continued, 'It was about being part of the community and helping all the mums and children, that's what I used to love, and that has been taken away. […] The best result would be getting back the job that I love and to feel part of the community again. I just want to serve the people and community I love.”
The hearing continues.