The family of a black postal worker who committed suicide claiming he had suffered racial abuse at work has won the right to lodge an action posthumously.

The chairman of the industrial tribunal, John Van Gelder, says there is evidence in the suicide note that suggested there might have been a basis for a claim of racial discrimination, despite the claim being made outside the normal time limit.

It is believed this is the first case to be made posthumously, and will continue to fuel the boom in industrial tribunals, which passed the 100,000-a-year mark in 2000, caused by the introduction of new employment laws and a more litigious-minded society.

Jermaine Lee, 26, was found hanged at his home in Hall Green, Brimingham, in November 1999.

His family claim that Lee had been bullied and harassed at work over an eight-month period. He had eventually been sacked from his job at the Aston sorting office. An internal investigation by the Royal Mail led to the suspension of six workers and the sorting office's manager was eventually dismissed.

Mark Sahu, counsel for the faimly, said the trauma of Jermaine Lee's death was one of the reasons why the family took so long to lodge an action.