Fired office manager tells tribunal of boss's racist remarks

A company boss accused of racism by a sacked office manager has denied that he was looking for an excuse to get rid of her.

British-born Valerie Moxam, whose parents are from Jamaica, has told an employment tribunal that David Wood dismissed her from landscaping contractor Visible Changes for reasons of race.

The tribunal in Watford heard on Tuesday that Ms Moxam was fired by text message.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

She said she had previously heard racist remarks being made at the firm, based in South Harrow, north west London, and said: "There is no doubt in my mind that the reason for my dismissal was, at least in part, my race."

Ms Moxam, of Northolt, west London, is fair-skinned like her parents, and has ginger hair and blue/green eyes.

Mr Wood, the firm's managing director, yesterday rejected a suggestion from Peter Ward, representing Ms Moxam, that he used an email from his accountant telling him of the firm's financial problems as an excuse to get rid of Ms Moxam because she was not fitting in.

"No, sir," he said.

He also denied allegations that he made racist comments, including one at a grievance meeting which followed the text message.

Ms Moxam told the tribunal yesterday that in April 2009 Mr Wood referred to a man on the phone with an Asian voice as "a f****** immigrant".

She said: "I was totally shocked, angry and amazed at his comment."

She also spoke of other alleged racist remarks made in the office, and claimed that Mr Wood said "Why is it that white girls like black men?", then laughed.

She said that the day after she received the text message on July 6 2009 – at a time when she was dealing with a family bereavement – an important meeting was to take place with an independent health and safety auditor, and she believed Mr Wood knew she would have raised the racist comments she had heard.

Ms Moxam said: "All I could do was put my head in my hands and obviously shake it, truly hoping he would see the effect of such remarks, to which he explained himself as often having 'brain farts in the office and say things I am not meant to say'."

He said he "panicked" after receiving the email from his accountant, telling him to cut any employee who was not needed.

The hearing continues.