Unfair dismissal and stigma – Ur- Rehman v Doncaster Jahia Mosque

In this Employment Appeal Tribunal case it was held that the Claimant was not in fact stigmatised as a result of his issuing Employment Tribunal proceedings for unfair dismissal.

The facts in Ur- Rehman v Doncaster Jahia Mosque

Mr Ur-Rehman (“the Claimant”) was an imam who worked at the Mosque in Doncaster (“the Respondent”) between 2006 and 16 April 2009. In 2009 the Mosque decided (with good reason) that the imam that worked there would need to speak English. The Claimant could not speak English and the Respondent considered that he would not be able to do so in a reasonable period of time. The Mosque therefore decided to dismiss the Claimant and, believing him not to be an employee, dismissed him without utilising a grievance procedure. The Claimant subsequently filed a claim for unfair dismissal and did in fact obtain a number of positions between the date of his dismissal and the date of the Employment Tribunal hearing. He did, however, claim that he had been dismissed form his latest post as an imam at the Abu Haneefa Educational Trust (“AHET”) because he was being stigmatised as a result of his claim for unfair dismissal.

It was found at a preliminary hearing that he was in fact an employee. The Employment Tribunal subsequently found in the Claimant’s favour in his unfair dismissal claim but (utilising the Polkey rule) limited past loss to just 26 weeks from the date of the effective date of termination to the date that a hypothetical fair dismissal would have occurred. The ET rejected his claim that he had been stigmatised. The Claimant appealed on the following points:

  1. That he had in fact been stigmatised and that the Employment Tribunal had applied the incorrect legal test
  2. That the Employment Judge had erred in determining that the Claimant had taken holidays (on the balance of probabilities) and that the Claimant was therefore owed holiday pay

The law relating to stigma after an unfair dismissal

If an employee is unfairly dismissed then they are entitled to claim compensation for their losses from the date of their dismissal to a date that the Employment Tribunal deems reasonable. However, if the dismissed employee encounters difficulties finding new employment because future potential employers decided not to employ him because of his issuing Employment Tribunal proceedings against his previous employer. This was established in the Court of Appeal case of Abbey National plc v Chagger [2009] EWCA Civ 1202.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal’s judgment in Ur- Rehman v Doncaster Jahia Mosque

The Employment Appeal Tribunal rejected the Claimant’s appeal on both grounds. It found that the Claimant had not established that he had suffered a stigma on the balance of probabilities. The Claimant had managed to obtain temporary employment a short time after his dismissal and then was able to obtain more permanent employment at the AHET after that. This suggested that he had not been stigmatised by the Employment Tribunal proceedings. Further, the Claimant was inconsistent in his evidence relating to holidays and had admitted that he had been permitted to take holidays. The second ground of the appeal therefore failed.

Our specialist employment lawyers’ views on Ur- Rehman v Doncaster Jahia Mosque

This is an interesting case for a number of reasons. Firstly, it demonstrates that if the Claimant is a poor witness it makes winning the case a significantly more difficult prospect. Opposing Counsel in this case was able to demonstrate factual inconsistencies in the Claimants evidence to great effect. Secondly, the Employment Tribunal found that as a matter of fact imams can be employees rather than office-holders. Finally, a Claimant must show that their search for a job has been significantly affected by the fact that they’ve issued Employment Tribunal proceedings. They must therefore gather evidence of applications and the reasons for any rejection.

Redmans are employment solicitors in Richmond, London.