British man claims he was fired for accidentally calling colleague 'racist term hash brown'

A hash brown.
A hash brown. Photo credit: Getty.

A British university employee claims to have been fired for using a "racist term" after his email supposedly autocorrected his colleague's name to "hash brown".

According to the Newcastle Chronicle, administrator Ollie de Planta claims he was fired from a job at Newcastle University in September for sending a message containing "perceived offensive, racial language".

It was pointed out to him that his email was addressed to "hash brown".

"When I was told, I just thought 'oh my days'. I had not met or spoken to this woman before so I had no reason to call her a name," the 28-year-old is quoted as saying by the newspaper.

He said his manager initially just told him to be more careful in the future, but was then called into a disciplinary hearing where he was told an investigation was underway into the incident. After university management were unable to replicate the autocorrect, he was fired.

"I believe that in the balance of probability that you did type the words in question and that the words were perceived as offensive and involving racial language," a letter from the university said after he appealed the decision.

But de Planta maintains he didn't write the term purposefully and says, in any case, he doesn't understand how it can be racist. The man also says the email's recipient made light of the situation.

"Hash brown is not a racist term. It is a breakfast item," he told the Newcastle Chronicle.

De Planta accused the university of not giving him an adequate amount of time to prepare for a formal meeting. 

The man is now working odd jobs to support himself.

A Newcastle University spokesperson confirmed to the Chronicle that de Planta was no longer employed at the establishment.