Employment Tribunal awards employee almost £7,000 after manager’s offensive comments about Muslims (Aboulossoud v Royal Borough of Greenwich & anor)

In the case of Aboulossoud v Royal Borough of Greenwich & anor ET/2302909/2016 an employee was awarded almost £7,000 by the Employment Tribunal after it found that one of her managers had made offensive comments about Muslims.

The facts in Aboulossoud v Royal Borough of Greenwich & anor

Ms Aboulossoud (“the Claimant”) worked for the Royal Borough of Greenwich at its Eltham Crematorium. She is of mixed heritage, and a number of her direct family members are Muslim (including her father).

On 8 January 2016 a staff meeting was held, which was attended (among others) by Dawn Squires (Parks and Open Spaces Manager) and the Claimant. At this meeting the Claimant acted as the spokesman for the other employees, and she detailed concerns that another local facility, Kemnal Park, was taking away business from Eltham Crematorium; Kemnal Park has a large dedicated Islamic section in its cemetery.

It was alleged in this meeting that Ms Squires had said: “Do they [the Kemnal Park management] really think that the residents of Bromley would want to be buried next to a Muslim? No offence to the Muslim community but that’s what they do, they move in and take over.”

The Claimant met with Ms Squires a few days later and was told by Ms Squires that she had not expressed a personal opinion in the meeting but was speaking from the point of view of the “true blue Tory” residents of the local area.

Subsequent to this meeting the Claimant submitted a formal complaint regarding Ms Squires’ conduct on 15 June 2019. A grievance process was undertaken and the Claimant was informed on 3 August 2019 that her complaint had been partly held: it was found that the comments had been made by Ms Squires, but that they had not been aimed at the Claimant. The Claimant was told that Ms Squires would be asked to apologise and that Ms Squires would also be sent on equality and diversity training.

The Claimant appealed the grievance outcome but was informed on 21 November 2019 that the appeal had not been upheld.

The Claimant subsequently submitted an Employment Tribunal claim for religious belief-related harassment.

The decision of the Employment Tribunal (ET)

The Employment Tribunal held that the following conduct constituted ‘harassment’ for the purposes of section 26 of the Equality Act 2010 (unwanted conduct related to the Claimant’s perceived religious belief that had the purpose or effect of violating her dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the Claimant): 1) the comment by Ms Squires on 8 January 2016; and 2) the Royal Borough of Greenwich’s failure to deal properly with the Claimant’s grievances.

The Employment Tribunal awarded the Claimant £6,000, plus interest of £846, in respect of injury to her feelings caused by the unlawful conduct.

The Employment Tribunal also criticised the Royal Borough of Greenwich for its failure to implement a comprehensive equality policy, or to train its employees properly in such policies.

Our solicitors’ views on the case of Aboulossoud v Royal Borough of Greenwich & anor

Chris Hadrill, an employment law solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case as follows: “This case reminds employers of two things: 1) to set up a detailed equality and diversity policy, and to ensure that its staff are reasonably trained on this; and 2) that any grievances relating to harassment (or any other form of victimisation or harassment) in the workplace are properly and fairly dealt with.”

The decision of the Employment Tribunal in Aboulossoud v Royal Borough of Greenwich & anor ET/2302909/2016 can be found here.