diversity day

Can't even put a stapler in jelly these days, or wear a white pointy hood to work. 


Walker Morris has said it has "further work to do" following an Asian woman's complaint that she suffered racial harassment while she worked at the firm.

The former employee has provided the Solicitors Regulation Authority with more than 20 examples of what she claims is evidence of "a culture of racism and discrimination" at the Leeds-based firm.

In her complaint, a copy of which was obtained by RollOnFriday, 'Aisha' (not her real name) alleges that in one incident a colleague sent a text message to another team member stating that a "stupid paki taxi driver" had hit her car. 

Aisha raised the matter with HR, but claims that she was initially given the excuse that the texter "only said the word ‘paki’ because she was stressed and she was raised in a white area". The firm did arrange an apology meeting, although Aisha said it was not mediated and that she was dissatisfied when the texter told her, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to call you a paki, it was at someone else".

After the same colleague had a spray tan, she allegedly told the team that she was now the "same colour" as a Pakistani team member, and on another occasion referred to Arabs as "towelheads". Aisha claims she reported the latter incident to management, but "nothing happened", and instead rumours were circulated by staff that she was "angry and aggressive".

"This was perpetuating a culture that just because I was offended by racial slurs being used I [was] being 'aggressive'", Aisha claims.

Walker Morris held diversity and inclusion workshops for its staff, but Aisha's complaint alleges that the training exposed attitudes to race which indicated the firm had a problem requiring the SRA's attention.

When the attendees were presented with an example of discrimination in which a handwash dispenser did not recognise black and Asian skin tones, one director commented that it "should recognise black and brown skin, because [it's] the same as having dirty skin", claims Aisha.

Her complaint describes how other staff griped after the session that the training made them feel as if "they can't have a laugh anymore at work or make any jokes".

Other non-white staff were also victimised, alleges Aisha, including a Pakistani colleague whose head of department allegedly made him stand next to a partner who had just returned from holiday with a tan. The manager allegedly joked that the partner was "even darker" than the Pakistani colleague, and the comparison was “met with laughter from others", says Aisha. 

In another incident a different partner allegedly commented, "I bet he’s got those from his corner shop", when a Sikh employee walked past with a bag of nuts.

An SRA spokesperson told RollOnFriday, "We have had a complaint and are looking into it before deciding on next steps".

In a statement, Walker Morris said it was "committed to providing a working environment where all colleagues, irrespective of race, religion, gender or sexuality are treated with respect", and that, "We take any allegation of racism within the firm with the utmost seriousness and we have a robust grievance procedure in place to address any issues of this nature"

It said the firm had not yet been made formally aware of the SRA complaint and was awaiting full details, but that "Grievances raised with the firm have been formally investigated internally and we recognise there is further work to do to reinforce a culture of diversity and inclusion. This includes the ongoing roll-out of a programme of education to all, and diversity forums established to deliver meaningful progress".

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Comments

Chris F 06 August 21 09:00

In northern offices the banter is always going to be more cutting and I can fully understand why someone raised in the south could be offended by some of the comments 

Anonymous 06 August 21 09:05

Can’t ever imagine a situation where I’d be so stressed that I became racist. WTAF! 

Gobblepig 06 August 21 09:27

This is... pretty awful. Walker Morris needs to show that it is taking these allegations very seriously, and if they have substance then it needs to crack down hard. This "banter" reads as though it has escaped from the 70's.

LondonLife 06 August 21 09:41

Some comments (such as the use of "paki") are awful. However, comparing someone who is tanned to someone of Asian descent is not even slightly racist. Is the Asian person embarrassed about being darker tone?

I am mixed race and I get upset when I'm paler than a tanned white friend due to me being stuck in cloudy England.

Anonymous 06 August 21 10:15

I am really not surprised, given the reputation of Walker Morris generally.

In junior circles it is always the "ladz" (of both genders) who typically end up at Walker Morris and in some cases the firm positively revels in its anti-intellectualism.

It was a running joke when I was a trainee in Leeds that the WM boys would be out, strutting around town in their shiny suits, thinking they were kings of the world on their £27k trainee salary.

Stand up against racism (or just shut up). 06 August 21 10:39

This is awful. Some of the comments are making excuses for the racism, slurs and attacks 🙄 Like comparing someone’s skin colour is so messed up to another level. Especially when you never have to stuff racism because you're white. It’s just the same as thinking blackface is a costume.
Ps. We in the north also get offered by your fucked up banter that only you and other racist people are laughing at. Jokes on you. 

Stand up against racism and discrimination or just shut up! 

Northerner 06 August 21 10:40

As a northerner (see username) who works in a northern office, Chris F is talking bobbins. This isn't acceptable in the North, same as it isn't acceptable anywhere else. Please don't paint the North as some sort of racism-tolerating dump. Sounds to me as though Walker Morris have a few idiots in their ranks, and those people should be swiftly kicked to the kerb. 

Anonymous 06 August 21 10:40

WM has always lived by the “northern banter” excuse, failing to realise they’re decades behind the rest of the world

Anonymous 06 August 21 10:43

"@LondonLife it’s better if you stop talking."

Yes please. As a person of mixed race you are automatically on our side, so it's very important that you pipe down and don't contradict the upper-middle class white people explaining what racism is and isn't to you.

You've been very oppressed. But don't worry, monied white people are finally here to solve it for you.

And lucky you, they're American and British, it's really your lucky day.

 

WincingPrettyHardRightNow 06 August 21 10:47

And yet, simply telling LondonLife to stop talking doesn't really help, and could be used to say that a  "Just don't say anything in case it offends" mindset is being enforced.

Perhaps a more helpful response would be:

LL, I'm sure that the Asian person is not embarrassed in the least by their hue, but I trust you can see that being hauled up in front of your colleagues by your boss and used as a potential source of amusement for something as fatuous as a "look how tanned I am!" competition could be humiliating for the person involved. As a standalone incident, that would be bad enough, but when taken with the other reported things... well...

If you're happy to compare yourself to a tanned white friend, and (assuming) even to make a joke about it in the company of that friend, then all power to you: no one reasonable or sensible would ever seek to take that away from you (unless, perhaps, you tried to haul your white friend up in front of a group of colleagues to prove the point), and it's your choice.

But that's the crux: it doesn't sound like the Pakistani person had the luxury of that choice.

Anonymous 06 August 21 10:06 06 August 21 10:58

I’m not white nor middle class. I’m Pakistani. Claiming something isn’t remotely racist even though it clearly is is daft, I’m sorry. Apologist comments like LondonLife is what keeps “banter” like this alive in work places. 

Anonymous 06 August 21 11:16

Well, it’s the north - they’re all a bit racist up there aren’t they. 

(Yes - the irony of that sweeping generalisation is not lost on me…) 

Anonymous 06 August 21 11:33

"I’m not white nor middle class. I’m Pakistani. Claiming something isn’t remotely racist even though it clearly is is daft, I’m sorry. Apologist comments like LondonLife is what keeps “banter” like this alive in work places."

Oh, I didn't realise that you were the King Of Racism who had the god given right to tell everyone else what was and wasn't racist. How nice to finally meet you. Sorry for suggesting that you were merely middle class.

Just out of interest, why is it that LondonLife's views are invalid (worse still an 'apologist') while your own are gospel truth? What is it about your perspective that privileges it over theirs? 

 

Unknown T 06 August 21 11:34

The fact that Walker Morris have stated they take racial complaints seriously and fully internally investigate these matters is such a blanket response. The reality is if they’d investigated internally AND Taken any of the the 20 complaints seriously there would not be complaint to the SRA and wouldn’t have lost good staff members because of mistreatment and mishandling of racial complaints. 
also, a question for WM…what have you done following any of these racial complaints to combat racism in your offices? One training session on diversity with a member of senior management making a racial comment.  

Anonymous 06 August 21 11:35

Quick flutter for the regs here: What's the odds on the self-proclaimed person of Pakistani origin also being the 'Question Man'?

I'd put ten bob on it.

anon 06 August 21 11:51

@londonlife if you don't get offended by a colleague randomly coming up to you and comparing their skin tone with you then that is great.

I would, as an Asian male, be offended. It would make me feel like some sort of office token. I would feel debased by it. You can have "bantz" in the office, but such "bantz" should be reciprocated. This sounds like targeted bullying, here. 

People are entitled to their views as to what is offensive and not, but clearly the recipient of the comment was offended and her voice should be heard.

LondonLife 06 August 21 12:27

Hahaha WOW so many people telling me what I should and shouldn't be offended at.

So, if a white person compares themselves to a more tanned white person, are they racist? No. I'm not going to take offense at being darker/lighter than anyone - it's just a physical attribute.

Reminds me of the black US law firm partner who was forced by white partners to apologise about the way he referred to black people.

LondonLife 06 August 21 12:31

As a further comment, one thing I do take offense at, is when it's assumed I automatically want to join Asian legal events. So you want me to join a group who are banding together because we're simply the same colour? Riiiight.

Hypocrisy at its best.

Anonymous 06 August 21 12:50

Can we please stop being distracted by the fact that a seemingly large commercial law firm appears to have in their midst “professionals” who openly use the term “paki”, “towelhead” and refer to awful stereotypes about corner shops. That’s what should be getting people riled, not navel gazing discussions about what offends you personally. 

Racism 06 August 21 12:58

The kind of racism you’d find on the terraces twenty years ago. Fair play WM, seems like they almost got away this one, props to the brave person raising the issue. A lot of Leeds firms run their own ship in an unregulated fashion, seems that no light has been shed on it while larger firms take the attention. It’s good that these issues are now coming to light and the sra must act, as WM and their HR/ employment team haven’t. 

Grauniad 06 August 21 13:00

Your attitude is deeply problematic, LL.

It's almost like you don't even want to be seen as oppressed.

Ryan F 06 August 21 13:09

Genuinely cannot believe some of the comments I'm reading in enabling some of their behaviour.

Do any of you work in a professional capacity at all?

This has 0 place in a professional setting, WM would would get a swift resignation from me.

Clear example of noobs in charge, what a shame...

Anonymous 06 August 21 13:14

@LondonLife - Stop oppressing yourself!

Why won't you just do what all of the other victims do and listen to progressives tell you what's good for you?

Anonymous 06 August 21 13:28

I thought Freeths was the 1970s law firm. 
 

It looks like Walker Morris is trying to steal their gold medallion. 

Anonymous 06 August 21 13:40

"WM would would get a swift resignation from me"

Pretty bold assumption that they'd want you in the first place, but sure.

 

Very brave of you to hypothetically resign from a job you haven't got. We BIPOC's salute your sacrifice on our behalf. You're welcome in Wakanda anytime.

Anon 06 August 21 13:46

I don’t think those who argue that they take offence at scenarios that @londonlife doesn’t are “oppressing themselves”.

it’s more thank likely those people have just had enough. They may have endured a life of racist incidents both minor and major. Surely going to work and not having your skin colour randomly analysed is something we should accept as reasonable?

again @londonlife is free to opine as they choose, but many people take a different view. That’s fine isn’t it? Or are all those people playing the victim?

Anonymous 06 August 21 13:55

This is hardly surprising! So many staff have raised these concerns before only to be told that they could record a 10 second video to explain the issues for HR... Like wtf HR? WM does not care about racism or racial diversity in the firm. Old white mans club...and HR are even worse...

Ryan F 06 August 21 14:06

"Pretty bold assumption that they'd want you in the first place, but sure.

 

Very brave of you to hypothetically resign from a job you haven't got. We BIPOC's salute your sacrifice on our behalf. You're welcome in Wakanda anytime."

Thanks for the pass, I didn't resign though. The key word in the sentence you've quoted from me is "would", used in a way to indicate a reaction or conditional consequence to what may have transpired in this case completely imagined because I don't work there, thankfully.

You clearly needed clarification. No problem, least I could do seeing as you've given me a pass to Wakanda, a completely fictional place from a Marvel film.

Pull the other one "BIPOC", sorry I ruffled your feathers.

Paul 06 August 21 14:21

London Life raises an interesting point which I have often pondered on myself.  Why are there 'Asian' legal events and why is there a Society of Asian Lawyers?  If I started a Society of White English Lawyers ('SWEL' has a nice ring to it) would people complain?  

Anonymous 06 August 21 14:39

This is utterly disgusting. The sad reality is that WM won’t actually do anything about this.  It’s all talk, no action. They’re known to be being a very non-diverse firm. The only way they will do anything is clients ever kick up a fuss. 

 

Well known 06 August 21 15:45

Anyone who has ever worked at WM or even in the Leeds legal market will not be surprised at this… in fact I’m only surprised they’ve managed to get away with it for this long. 

Anonymous 06 August 21 15:52

"If I started a Society of White English Lawyers ('SWEL' has a nice ring to it) would people complain?"

We have that already, we call it the Equity Partners.

 

 

 

Big lols aside though - I've always wondered quite how insane progressives would go if you launched a radio station / awards ceremony for Music Of White Origin and used it as a platform for Heavy Metal and Rock. Suspect that it wouldn't be considered as enriching and empowering as all of the other closed shops.

Anonymous 06 August 21 16:00

"what may have transpired in this case completely imagined because I don't work there"

Yes, I think that they may have understood that, given that they described your resignation as 'hypothetical' on the basis that it was from a 'job you haven't got'.

Not sure how you missed that tbh. You sound like you may have responded in a state of some agitation.

ShootyOriginal 06 August 21 16:06

Technically, metal and rock are based on The Blues.

Blues is MOBO.

Thus, your radio station would be largely classical, and your awards ceremony would be basically Simon Rattle and Philip Glass having a drink.

Check and mate, I believe.

Anonymous 06 August 21 16:36

"Technically, metal and rock are based on The Blues."

Oh god, here we go... the old canard that every single musical style on the planet can be traced back to Afro-Caribbeans somehow (inevitably via America as if the whole world was bereft of song before 1776) and therefore Finnish death metal is actually somehow 'black'. 

Blues was one influence amongst many. Trying to claim it as the root genre of all modern music is just daft.

It's as ridiculous as trying to claim the phenomena of Medicine as 'white' on the basis that it was first invented by the Greeks. The whole idea should be laughed out of town.

 

 

If you think you've somehow achieved checkmate it's only because your opponent can't make a move after you've dribbled all over the board and tried to eat half the pieces.

ShootyOriginal 06 August 21 16:55

How come there was no top 40 or record shops pre-1776 then, eh? 

Double check and mate.

walkermorrissurvivor 06 August 21 17:58

I cannot be the only Walker Morris alumni for whom the most surprising thing about this is that WM now has an "HR" department....

Anonymous 06 August 21 20:11

I used to work there and don't recognise that sort of culture. 

But that was many years ago fair play to the complainant as the treatment meted is unacceptable and she should be applauded for pursuing it.

I lolled about the "lads" comment re trainees.  That was probably me.  And yes, I was a proper LAD 

CHIN CHIN

Lolwut 06 August 21 21:40

As exWM - and knowing who 'Aisha' probably is - so much of this is just not possibly true. I have lots of critical stuff to say about WM but recognise absolutely nothing in this article and there were some pretty *old fashioned" types still around in my time.

And anyway, how did she see this private text message? 

 

Anonymous 06 August 21 21:40

I grew up in the north and used to work here. I am not surprised by this and frequently had to deal with similar issues when at Walker Morris. Racial micro aggressions were a daily occurrence and HR and the Partners dismissed it anytime I raised racism issues with them. Sometimes it even came from HR and the Partners. There is no genuine appetite to change and the firm seems to only be conceding it has work to do now that it has been publicly exposed. 

Anon 06 August 21 23:12

I am not surprised. Walker Morris is a high street firm in Leeds. It has the prejudices to match. 

Anon 07 August 21 11:34

If the allegations are true:

a) this is terrible. Racism has no place in our society;

b) it is concerning that lawyers (knowing how seriously racism is viewed) were so stupid that they engaged in this behaviour. If I were a client, would I engage people that thick?

 

Anonymous 07 August 21 12:33

Some guy with nothing better to do thinks I'm hooked but who has really hooked who and where will the hooking end?

Anon 08 August 21 15:49

“Further work to be done” and a training session was all that WM could come up with after such disgusting comments made by senior members of staff. Not good enough. The individuals making these comments manage teams, decide on salary reviews, recruit. At most, they will have been given a slap on the wrist with no serious repercussions. Shame on WM.

Observer 08 August 21 18:35

It's telling when people who have worked in the area/ at the firm would not be surprised by this. Clearly this behaviour/ views are at the core of Walker Morris and its management. I'd be more skeptical if having looked on the website there was some level of diversity amongst partners, but there really is a huge diversity issue here, and we can only presume why...

City 09 August 21 08:12

This is hardly surprising. The sort of people who work at a firm like Walker Morris lack sophistication. Typical provincial, unenlightened mindset. 

Lol 10 August 21 17:02

Walker Morris, a nondescript firm that has recently hired the daughter of their managing partner, has a ... diversity problem? Never! 

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