Employee told to change his name wins race discrimination claim

A man of Indian origin has won a claim of race discrimination after being told he had to use an English name while he was at work.

Rahul Jain worked in the telesales department of a software company in Leicester. The company told staff of Indian origin that they had to use English names instead of their own in emails and when speaking to customers on the phone.

They were told this was to avoid spelling mistakes by customers.

Mr Jain adopted the name Rob. Other staff also used English names. For example, Aarti became Anna, Mehul became Max, Meera used the name Marie. White employees were not asked to change their names.

Mr Jain was later made redundant and brought a claim of race discrimination.

The employment tribunal agreed that he had been treated less favourably than white colleagues because he had not been allowed to use his own name at work.

Commenting on the case, employment law barrister Daniel Barnett, said: “This is one of the first decisions under the Equality Act 2010, which replaced the Race Relations Act 1976 last October. It shows that tribunals will not shy away from controversial decisions.

“The tribunal has invited the parties to agree compensation. If they cannot agree, it will be assessed in a few months. Mr Jain has not suffered any loss of earnings because of this discrimination, but is likely to receive around £5,000 for injury to feelings.

“Despite everyone accepting the employer was well-motivated, the tribunal rejected an argument that the employer’s rule was justified by its desire to avoid misspelling of names on emails.

“Although it is not illegal to ask somebody to work under a pseudonym, it is unusual employment practice and becomes unlawful if the requests are only made to employees from a particular ethnic group.”

Please contact Paul Stevens if you would like more information about race discrimination claims or any aspect of employment law.