A black fire station commander is suing bosses for race discrimination after claiming his colleagues nicknamed him FRANK BRUNO and MALCOLM X.
Warren Simpson, 48, says he was repeatedly passed over for promotion while his less experienced white colleagues leap-frogged him up the ranks.
Mr Simpson, who is still station commander at Fallings Park Fire station in Wolverhampton, is now suing West Midlands Fire Service for potentially tens of thousands of pounds.
He has taken the fire service to a tribunal claiming he was the victim of race discrimination, including victimisation, harassment and bullying.
The tribunal in Birmingham heard Mr Simpson joined the brigade in 1985 but was labelled ‘Frank Bruno’ – a reference to the ex-world champion boxer – in his first week.
He was awarded a Chief Fire Officer’s Commendation in 1998 when he saved dozens of people from a freezing lake who tried to save a drowning a boy.
But months after he claims his colleagues branded him Malcolm X – after the hard-line equal rights campaigner – when he became a union representative for black and ethnic firefighters.
His wife Cordell, 51, who represented him at the tribunal, told the hearing: “Mr Simpson believes his development has not been supported in a comparable way of that of his white colleagues.
“In conclusion, it is submitted that Mr Simpson has experienced racial discrimination, victimisation and harassment in the form of a constant shifting of the goalposts by the respondents.
“They have sought to block his progression beyond that of station commander, demean, subjugate and belittle him, ignoring him when he raises serious concerns and then adding insult to injury by claiming it is all in his head and sending him for a mental health assessment.”
The discrimination accusation was denied by David Maxwell, representing West Midlands Fire Service, who labelled harassment and bullying claims as “absolutely preposterous”.
The hearing ended on Friday and a judgement is expected in mid-November.
Mr Simpson, who has three children and two stepchildren, has been on half-pay from the fire service since being off sick with stress in February.
Mr Simpson, from Corby, Northants., yesterday claimed he would be earning at least £70,000-a-year if he had been promoted.
He said: “I am currently earning just under £50,000 but I believe that if I had been white I would have been at least an Area Commander who earn #70,000 or maybe even an Assistant Chief Director who earn more than £100,000.
“I am suing the fire service for the pension I would have been entitled to had I been promoted.”
Mr Simpson, who also has a law degree, said he first encountered racism just days after joining the fire service as a 20-year-old.
He said: “In my first week the nickname Frank Bruno was bandied around by colleagues. I told them it was unacceptable and said my name was Warren not Frank but it stuck.
“I was told that I was referred to as Frank behind my back. Not many people would have the nerve to say it to my face.”
Mr Simpson claims he rose to the rank of Station Officer in 2003 but was prevented from progressing further because of prejudice against him.
He said: “In 2003 I was Station Officer and was put forward for the role of station commander.
“An independent assessor put my application 8th out of a pool of 40 applicants but I discovered people below me were being promoted.
“I complained and in 2005 I eventually got promoted to Station Commander of Perry Barr Fire Station in 2005 but could not progress any further.
“Once you are at that level of management promotion relies on personal relationships.
“My managers couldn’t get over the fact that I am an intelligent, driven, black man.
“I feel my career was stopped as a result of my race.”