BBC sued by ex-production manager after ‘interview panel laughed at her Indian accent’

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Malika Keswani claims a panel of BBC executives laughed at her Indian accent during a job interview. Ms Keswani joined the Persian Service, part of the World Service, in March 2019.

She applied for a job as a production manager with BBC Sport in February 2020.

In documents filed with the Central London Employment Tribunal, Ms Keswani claims the all-white panel were “subtly laughing” at her Indian accent during the interview.

The ex-BBC production manager said: “Throughout the interview, the panel nodded and smiled at times but I noticed that, based on the way I spoke, the focus was on how I was saying things rather than what I was saying.

“I noticed the panel subtly laughing while trying to contain their laughter.

“This drew my attention to my soft Indian accent.”

She claims that she was “unfairly and unjustifiably scored as the weakest candidate”.

Ms Keswani also claims the interview prompted her to seek help from an accent coach.

And she claims she was left suffering anxiety and was diagnosed with PTSD.

Ms Keswani filed a grievance claim in April 2020.

She claims she was “victimised” until she left the corporation in October that year.

Ms Keswani said: “My anxiety was precipitated by the conduct of the BBC and the treatment offered to me thereafter.

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“I had been under the impression the BBC was an equal opportunities employer, but I had faced nothing but barriers and suppression.

“My resignation made it clear that I considered I had been discriminated against as a result of being a BAME employee and the BBC was failing in its efforts to be inclusive.”

Ms Keswani, who was previously rejected for a job in the broadcaster’s news and current affairs division, said she felt “pigeon-holed” in her position because her “face fits”.

She claims she was only asked to apply for other BBC roles so the corporation could “meet its requirements to interview a diverse candidate”.

The BBC denies the claims. A spokesperson said: “We wouldn’t comment on an ongoing legal process”.

The tribunal continues.

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