back to article Ex-asylum seeker with infosec degree loses discrimination claim against UK cyber range provider after storming out

A former asylum seeker with a postgraduate degree in cybersecurity who alleged his bosses were spying on him for MI5 has lost his attempt to claim he was racially discriminated against. The anonymous man, who worked for an unnamed company that set up a UK cyber range in mid-2019, told the Employment Tribunal that he had quit …

  1. Magani
    Happy

    " It came to a head with a shouting match, with the man storming off home..."

    So at least one person is channelling Piers Morgan.

  2. Blergh

    his managers had told him they were "employed by MI5 and MI6", were "watching him closely" and that he should be "very careful what he was doing"

    I don't suppose there was any proof they actually said that to him, but bloody hell that sounds racist/xenophobic to me.

    1. TeeCee Gold badge
      WTF?

      Er, why?

      Is that supposed to be sarcasm?

    2. Sykowasp

      Of course there's no evidence. These things were (allegedly) said, not emailed or messaged, few people are stupid enough to put these things in writing. The guy clearly didn't raise these issues with the company HR people prior to leaving, so there's nothing recorded, and it weakened his case significantly. I mean, they hired the guy which weakens the accusations a lot - they could easily have hired someone else.

      They /may/ be true, but only the people involved know the truth. They /may/ be lies and fabrications.

      Hint: Even if a job is pretty rubbish (but not abusive, etc), get yourself a new one before leaving and then move on. Some jobs just aren't meant to be (like other things in life), don't drag the pain out further if not necessary or you really have no proof for your claims (which your lawyer really should point out early on).

    3. IGotOut Silver badge

      Go back.

      Read article.

    4. Trollslayer

      If they were watching him for MI5/6 the last thing they would do is tell him.

      Mostly because the would be charged with breaking some obscure laws.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        You mean the Official Secrets Act ?

        It's existence is far from obscure.

    5. sad_loser
      Big Brother

      winding up

      Because it is so difficult / expensive to sack a dysfunctional employee in the UK, winding them up so that they leave (as might be construed in this case) is entirely rational behaviour.

      With Brexit, the only way we are going to become more competitive internationally is if we row back on some of the employee protection and have a rather more dynamic workforce.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Re: winding up

        You alreadu have zero-hour contracts which are the practical equivalent of indentured servitude, how much further would you like to "row back" ? Iron collars and shackles ?

      2. James Anderson Silver badge

        Re: winding up

        Ridiculous. The U.K. has some of the weakest employment protection in the western world.

        In France and Germany it is almost impossible to sack an employee, and it takes months of effort and documentation to do it legally.

        With nearly 4% of the work force on zero hours contracts, lowly paid internships, short term contracts etc. etc. Short of bringing back serfdom its difficult to see how the balance of power could be shifted to favour the employers more.

        Perhaps a stable, respected, well paid workforce with rights and job security might go some way to competing with Germany's industrial might.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: winding up

          In France and Germany it is almost impossible to sack an employee, and it takes months of effort and documentation to do it legally.

          Yet France has twice the unemployment rate of the UK.

          1. Andy Non Silver badge

            Re: winding up

            Not surprising as the employment laws are so fierce. When we moved to France it baffled me that a number of shops and small businesses shut down completely during the Summer holidays. A French baker told me that if he took people on to keep the bakery/shop open while he was on holiday, the temp employees would get too many rights so it just wasn't financially worth doing. Instead they closed the shop for two weeks. This is common practice right across France.

            1. JassMan Silver badge

              Re: winding up @Andy Non

              At least they have improved from the days of my youth when all hotels used to close for 'congé' (the annual holidays). I never understood why they would do that, since the time everyone needs a hotel is when they are on holiday. Thankfully current hotelliers seem slightly more intetersted in serving the public.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: winding up

            > Yet France has twice the unemployment rate of the UK.

            I used to provide loads of technical training for a group in an international company who were based in France. I provided similar training all over the world. A few years ago they changed the law and now you can't have non-French Nationals coming in a working in France without jumping through a million hoops and basically setting up a French company. This is not a Brexit thing, member of my team are based in other EU countries and they can't go work in France. The companies HQ in the US can't send trainers over to France either.

            Result? far from meaning that the company hired French trainers they started by shipping staff out of France to be trained in other countries. Then they just stopped hiring anyone in France as it was too expensive to train them. If you need the language skills just use ex French North African colonies.

          3. The Pi Man

            Re: winding up

            Genuine question, do they count unemployed the same way as the UK? In the UK it’s impossible to compare unemployment statistics historically because the definition of “unemployed” has changed.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: winding up

              France plays games with the numbers as well, as do most countries. There are two "unemployment" figures usually produced

              - The government ones from the employment agency, these include only the people signed on for benefits and actively looking for work. This excludes people on training, sick, or who are doing paid odd jobs.

              - The national statistics from the official statistics agency. It is based on survey sampling, and includes everyone over the age of 15 who has done no paid work in the previous week and is looking actively for a job.

              The government figures are usually lower.

              There are "Eurostat" figures which are supposed to be levelled to allow comparison between EU members.

          4. SundogUK

            Re: winding up

            If you can never fire them, you don't hire them in the first place.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: winding up

              That's the problem in France, companies won't hire people for projects that may or may not succeed, because it's so hard to let them go them afterwards if HQ decides not to continue with the project after the first year or two. That sort of speculative work gets done in the US, UK, Czech Republic, etc. instead. It means that larger French companies often lag behind in cutting edge development, only the small start-ups can afford to do the dynamic nature of that kind of work.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: winding up

          Ridiculous. The U.K. has some of the weakest employment protection in the western world.

          My screen got a coffee bath on this assertion. I live in the USA. Right-to-starve and a race to the bottom on wages, benefits (what are those?) PTO, parental leave, etc. Come across the pond for the job, stay for the abuse.

        3. MJB7

          Re: winding up

          The UK is about mid-way between European levels of employment protection and that provided by "at-will" US states (where you can be fired with zero notice because the employer doesn't like the shade of your socks.)

      3. idiot taxpayer here again
        WTF?

        Re: winding up

        @ sad loser

        What has Brexit to do with this. Your handle (like mine suits me) suits you. Now get a room...

      4. Muppet Boss Bronze badge

        Re: winding up

        >With Brexit, the only way we are going to become more competitive internationally is if we row back on some of the employee protection and have a rather more dynamic workforce.

        Meaning, expensive and not always internationally competitive workforce that suddenly became cheap to sack and offshore. That's a winner! Do not forget to slash the annual leave too. Worker's rights? What rights?

      5. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: winding up

        >Because it is so difficult / expensive to sack a dysfunctional employee in the UK,

        That's because manglement tend to go about things in a dumb way.

        Seen this in the last year, HR told the manglement how to get rid of certain dysfunctional employees, manglement procastinated - didn't want confrontation etc., end result manglement did it their way and cost the company lots and risked being taken to tribunal...

        >the only way we are going to become more competitive internationally

        Well, I liked an example my brother in Oz gave me, it showed how even if the workforce at his company was paid zero, they still wouldn't be internationally competitive - basically the message back to manglement was: invest in automating your production line or you don't have a business.

  3. Severus

    Allegations without consequences

    It is simply not right that people should be able to throw allegations of racism around with no basis in fact yet walk away Scott free when these claims are found to be false. There should be consequences where these allegations are found to be false and maybe that would separate the troublemakers from the legitimate claimants, for example the claimant should be personally made to pay ALL legal costs and compensation for defamation if the claim fails.

    1. lglethal Silver badge
      Go

      Re: Allegations without consequences

      Yes and No. It's very hard in most cases to prove what comments came out in a 1 on 1 scenario. It becomes the old he said/she said debacle. Most times, it gets decided purely on if anyone else was around, or which party seems the more believable. Putting some sort of restriction on people reporting racism, as per if its not proven then they have to pay costs, will simply put a dent in the number of people reporting racism and encourage the racists to keep it up. It will hurt the legitimate cases more than affect the troublemakers.

      Perhaps if it can be proven the case has been made up (video of the incident) then maybe you can look into that sort of thing. But even if there are witnesses - Are they independent witnesses? How many people will back up their boss, to protect their career? How many people will back up a colleague at the risk of their career?

      In this case, where the judge has smacked down the case on a dozen grounds, it certainly implies that he was making this up. But it doesnt prove it. The judge is basically saying on the balance of probabilities and the evidence provided, the company acted lawfully and not in a racist way. But thats quite a bit different to saying with absolutel authority that it didnt happen. So are you happy to additionally punish people on the "balance of probabilities"?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Allegations without consequences

        I did put my head above the parapet when a colleague was being harassed by his manager. He had a degenerative disease and instead of making reasonable adjustments. A management decision was made to get him out as soon as possible. This including moving him off the work he had experience of onto a completely different programming language, then giving him unreasonable attainment targets, refusing him permission to work from home, refusing flexibility on working hours and general bullying. Only a couple of us who worked with him, but not in his team, were prepared to do so. His fellow team members were too cowed themselves to come forwards. I was in a very vulnerable financial position at the time but was so outraged by the injustice that I had to support him. It did help that after a previous incident when I had been bullied I pointed out my daughter is an employment lawyer. After that they backed away from me to pick on easier victims.

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge
      Trollface

      As Sir Humphry would no doubt respond, not finding something true does not mean finding that thing false.

    3. monty75

      Re: Allegations without consequences

      Yeah let’s make it more difficult and risky for people to raise legitimate problems. We could make people pay a deposit any time they report a crime to the police too.

    4. a_builder

      Re: Allegations without consequences

      The problem with that is that all the employer has got to do is to engage Messrs Sue, Grabbit & Runne - the most expensive City Solicitors known to mankind . The employer then shares their rate card with the potential claimant along with an estimate of a gazillion billable hours.

      Claimant doesn’t have gazillion x squillion so folds.

      Case won by another form of intimidation.

      I’m an employer BTW so I know well how the system is abused and have had bogus claims from a ‘cancer sufferer’ who made a remarkable recovery - evidence including an unsecured Word letter from the hospital - outrageously the hospital would not confirm if the letter was genuine due to ‘patient confidentiality’. The whole thing was bullshit but you couldn’t quite prove it.

      I’ve had another claim relating to a Polish labourer who ‘hurt himself’ on site. He went to see a private doctor on Sunday and had a private MRI that afternoon. The MRI company invoice had clearly been altered - the MRI company would not confirm the invoice was genuine again citing patient confidentiality. Issue was it was a VAT invoice that had been presented to us for payment (we didn’t) so we had an absolute right to know if it was genuine under VAT regs. Reported it to HMRC - they did nothing.

      I could go on and on but there are plenty of bent schemes run to fleece employers and their insurers. Nobody will do anything about it.

    5. Trigun

      Re: Allegations without consequences

      The main issue with punishing people for reporting is that you might catch those who have been actually been racially disciminated against, but don't have enough evidence and those who legit believe they have been - even if it's not actually true. It would then have the effect of actively discouraging people from challenging their dismisal, especially when they have no employment so no money comng in to pay for litigation.

      The ultimate form of this conundrum is the accusation of rape. The crime is so deeply horrible it carries a huge stigma (rightly), but because of this a false accusation is potentially life ruining to the accused, but to punish those who do falsly claim then discourages genuine vulnerable victims who aren't thrilled to go through the ordeal of a trial in the first place.

      The only answer I can come up with in these situations to only punish in those (admittedly rare) cases where it's almost certain the person was making a false accusation/claim.

  4. Gordon 10 Silver badge
    WTF?

    Hanging my head in shame

    I'll probably lose my El Reg commentard credentials here but WTAF is a Cyber Range?

    1. Chris Rowson

      Re: Hanging my head in shame

      Ah, the Cyber Range. It's Elon Musk's new electric offroader.

    2. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      Re: Hanging my head in shame

      A wifi-connected Oven. I've got one in the kitchen - although it only has one screen, not three blue ones and three red ones, so perhaps it's not top of the line. I suspect the red ones are for seeing the food you're heating, I'm not sure what the blue ones are for.

      HTH!

    3. Gaius

      Re: Hanging my head in shame

      It’s a room set up so a red team (hackers) and a blue team (sysadmins) can directly compete in real time with their activities displayed for observers to critique, hence the big screens on the wall referenced in the article. The name is meant to evoke a firing range.

  5. I am David Jones
    WTF?

    Did the judge conclude that some people had not said that they were working for MI5/6 because they didn't actually work for them? So has no-one ever lied in order to bluff their way to threatening someone?

  6. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Cyber?

    "for an unnamed company that set up a UK cyber range in mid-2019"

    So this is what they meant by having a career 'in cyber'.

    And there was the rest of us taking the piss about Government PR agencies not having a clue. Red faces all round.

  7. HildyJ Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Raise your hand

    If you've ever had an argument with a manager about needing new, better, or different equipment.

    Now wave your unemployment check if you've ever quit and stormed out.

    Regardless of the truth (real or perceived) of his claims, he went about making them in a suboptimal way.

  8. msobkow

    It wouldn't be the first time I've run across a member of a minority claiming "discrimination" because they got passed over for a promotion or were let go from a project. In all cases I know of, the decisions were made based on skills, aptitude, and personality, but they all "took the shot" of trying to sue for dicsrimination.

    I wonder if they were hoping for miracle payouts, or if they really are so obsessed with their own racial background's impact on life that they really do think their incompetence will be passed over just because they aren't a member of the majority? *LOL*

  9. Blackjack Silver badge

    Neither man had ever worked for MI5 or MI6. We do not accept that this remark was made to the Claimant."

    So you don't accept that people can lie? Funny because you are saying the guy who was allegedly told that is lying.

    1. MJB7

      "We do not accept that this remark was made to the Claimant."

      Of course they accept people lie. "We do not accept that this remark was made to the Claimant." is judge-speak for "The Claimant is lying about this remark."

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