A CALL centre worker has spoken of his bitterness after he was kicked unconscious by a colleague - and then sacked.
The attack on EE call handler Grant Potter prompted an investigation by bosses into allegations of bullying at the company's Darlington offices which ended with eight people being dismissed.
But father-of-three Mr Potter claims he was the victim of an assault not a bully - and he was sacked unfairly by uncaring bosses.
The 36-year-old admitted that staff would often play jokes on each other - but he claimed that nobody was singled out or bullied.
He said: "It was a high pressure environment and people would do jokes to try and relieve that pressure - I've had loads done on me over the years.
"It was all schoolboy stuff really - but on this day things got out of hand.
"We all had work passes and I drew a funny face, which could have been wiped off, on a colleague's pass."
Mr Potter, who worked in the company's technical support department, was sat at his desk moments later when the man "roundhouse" kicked him in the head.
Mr Potter fell off his chair and lost consciousness.
He was taken to hospital suffering from concussion and the police were called.
The call handler decided against pressing charges and expected to be able to go back to work.
However, he was told the attacker had claimed he had been bullied in the weeks leading up the kick.
Mr Potter was suspended and then sacked two weeks before Christmas.
At the time his wife was expecting their third child and he believes the stress of his dismissal prompted her to go into early labour days later.
The couple were forced to move home and Mr Potter was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome after suffering severe headaches.
He has now got a new job as a bus driver, but he said he still felt very angry about the way he was treated.
"We got into so much financial difficulties because of what happened that I'm now working 60 hours a week to get us back on the straight and narrow.
"I feel absolute bitterness to the company alone for what happened - after the attack not one person from the company called to ask how I was.
"If it wasn't for the support of my wife Donna and our amazing family and friends I wouldn't have been able to get through this."
Following the incident, eight people were dismissed, including the man who kicked Mr Potter, as well as two team leaders and operations manager Fay Hand, who earlier this month took EE to an employment tribunal for unfair dismissal.
A decision is expected on the case shortly.
Mr Potter said he considered legal action but new rules meant he was unable to claim legal aid and he could not afford it.
In response to the criticism, EE said the company was one of the largest in the area and it took its responsibility toward its large teams in its Darlington offices very seriously.
“Feedback from staff is very positive, and if anyone reports concerns we are committed to fully investigate them on an individual basis, and look to resolve as quickly as possible,” a spokeswoman added.