Worker was discriminated against due to his 'perceived religion'

A Royal Mail worker was a victim of racial discrimination even though the comments made towards him were not specifically about his own religion.

That was the ruling of the Employment Tribunal at a recent hearing involving Mr Shunmugaraja, who was a manager at the Royal Mail Cardiff depot. He described himself as a Hindu of British-Indian origin.

One of his workers, Mr Brown, refused to complete various tasks, and so a meeting was held with a senior member of staff present.

Brown allegedly called Shunmugaraja a “sly dog” for bringing up a personal matter in the meeting. Shunmugaraja immediately left the meeting, believing this comment to be relating to his race.

Another incident occurred when, to help a member of his team who had hearing difficulties, Shunmugaraja moved a meeting to the depot’s quiet room, which was also used as a space for employees to pray.

One of Shunmugaraja’s team, Mr Day, objected to the meeting being held in the quiet room, claiming he used it for prayer. A heated argument took place and Day suggested Shunmugaraja host his team meetings in the depot’s Muslim Prayer Room instead.

Shunmugaraja made an official complaint that he was being harassed and bullied on account of his race. He requested an external investigation, as he believed it would be impossible for a member of the depot’s staff to remain impartial.

He was told that the matter of a manager being harassed by members of his own team needed to be investigated by another manager.

Shunmugaraja went off sick with neck pain and while absent he was told he had been dismissed.

He took the case to the Employment Tribunal. In her judgment, Judge Laura Howden-Evans said: “In the heat of the moment Mr Day made this comment without thinking. It was a retort that came out that he wouldn’t have said to someone of the same religion as himself.

“He was blurring Mr Shunmugaraja’s religion. He was trying to say ‘you respect the Muslim religion – why not respect mine?’ However, Mr Day did not express it like this or in this manner.

“This was treating the Mr Shunmugaraja less favourably and the reason was his perceived religion.”

The judge ordered a separate remedy hearing to establish what level of compensation should be paid to Mr Shunmugaraja.

Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article, or any aspect of employment law

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