A FORMER perfume counter manager claims he lost his job at a North-East department store amid subconscious racial and gender discrimination.

Alex Skye worked at Binns, in Darlington, for nine weeks, during the busy Christmas period between November last year and January.

The 34-year-old was employed by Fragrance Expert, which runs an in-store perfume concession, not House of Fraser itself.

His wrongful dismissal claim against Fragrance Expert is being heard by a three-person employment tribunal in Newcastle.

Mr Skye, who describes his ethnicity as 'brown-skinned', was dismissed during his probationary period, the panel was told on Tuesday (October 8).

It is his belief that he was treated differently to what he describes as the 'archetypal perfume counter manager' - a white woman.

Although does not allege overt racial or gender bias on the part of his former employers, Mr Skye, whose parents hail from the Asian sub-continent, believes subconscious discrimination played a role in his sacking.

He said: "I firmly believe that I have been treated less favourably than a traditional perfume manager."

Mr Skye said he was the only non-white male working in the store during his period of employment, adding there were very few staff from ethnic minorities.

Ed McFarlane, representing Fragrance Expert, alluded to poor timekeeping on Mr Skye's part as being one contributing factor in his dismissal.

The company disputes Mr Skye's assertions regarding alleged subconscious discrimination.

Mr Skye said he had experienced personal problems - namely his mother's illness - and had also been late due to snow.

He said: "My mother's illness was never checked up on after I announced it.

"There was an assumption that my mother's illness stopped at the end of December; of course it did not.

"Nobody [asked how she was], I never felt I could open up [to my line manager] about it, the onus was always on work.

"When I told her about my mother, all that was on her mind was work.

"The problem was never listened to, potentially it was never believed."

Mr McFarlane said that because Mr Skye's subsequent lateness for work had been down to snowfall, colleagues had no reason to inquire further about his mother.

Mr Skye added: "I may have left early, with permission, I may have arrived late on occasion, but never did I not turn up."

The hearing was adjourned abruptly after a member of the panel became unwell and is expected to reconvene later this month.