A BROADCASTING giant has been criticised for taking the "customer is always right" mantra to the extreme after sacking a worker when a customer falsely accused him of being racist.

Sky dismissed call centre adviser Steven Ritchie in October 2013 after a caller claimed he had made racist comments.

The woman, who had been trying to access her mother's account without a password, complained to the broadcaster's chief executive after Mr Ritchie said he found it strange that her mother did not speak any English.

Mr Ritchie, of Dunfermline, took his case to an employment tribunal and has now been awarded almost £38,000 for unfair dismissal.

The tribunal found that his comments were not racist and criticised Sky for dismissing Mr Ritchie on the word of a customer without full investigation.

In a written judgment on the case, employment judge James Hendry claimed bosses had jumped to the conclusion that if a customer says something is racist then it is.

He said: "This seems to elevate the concept that the customer is always right to a new level and by doing so appears to the tribunal to be avoiding the responsibility that a reasonable employer has to judge such comments for themselves and to decide if the conduct amounted to making racist comments or not."

The judgment also stated: "We did not accept that a reasonable employer would hold such comments as being an expression of racists views."

Mr Ritchie, who was a student when he worked for Sky at a contact centre in Dunfermline, said he was "delighted" with the outcome of the tribunal.

He said: "I was accused of being a racist when I'm not and I feel like I've been completely vindicated now."

His lawyer Danny Devine, of Muir, Myles and Laverty, added: "If Sky had to treat their employees in the same manner as they treat their customers then perhaps Mr Ritchie would never have been dismissed in the first place.

"This decision to dismiss Mr Ritchie was a knee-jerk reaction because a complaint had been made to the chief executive and it contained accusations of racism.

"The tribunal found that no reasonable employer would have done what Sky did under the circumstances."

The tribunal heard that Mr Ritchie received a call from the woman on October 3, 2013, complaining that her Sky was not working.

He asked for the account password and she explained it had been set up in her mother's name and her mother does not speak English.

She said: "All she can say is yes and no, what do you expect her to say?"

Mr Ritchie replied: "I expect her to .. I assume she [has] some English for writing numbers."

Later in the call, the woman complained that she found Mr Ritchie rude and he replied: "Well I'm just making a statement that I find it odd that someone lives in a country and doesn't learn the language, that's fair enough, that's up to her."

Following the call, the woman sent a letter to BSkyB CEO Jeremy Darroch, claiming that Mr Ritchie had breached both the Race Relations Act 1976 and The Equality Act 2010.

Mr Darroch then emailed the letter on to other staff, describing it as a complaint about racist comments.

The tribunal said this was "unfortunate" as it created a danger that the staff dealing with the disciplinary process could be "influenced by the attitudes apparently being displayed by their own management".

When the transcript of the telephone call was put to Mr Ritchie, he accepted that he could have handled the call better but denied the comments were racist.

The tribunal found that he was "effectively criticised for this and for not being sufficiently remorseful".

Judge Hendry also found that Sky failed to consider a lesser course of disciplinary action.

Sky declined to comment on the case.