In the case of Mr M Akbar v Virtus Law Ltd: 2408910/2020 the Employment Tribunal awarded Mr M Akbar £1,000 in damages after a colleague at Virtus Law Ltd made a discriminatory remark towards him based on his Pakistani heritage.
The factual background in Mr M Akbar v Virtus Law Ltd
Mr M Akbar worked at Manchester personal injury law firm Virtus Law Ltd until early 2020 when he left the firm to join Clyde & Co. Virtus Law Ltd is a close team of about 5 or 6 people and they often engaged in discussion about their personal lives and well as news events and TV shows. However, upon leaving, Mr Akbar made the following seven complaints of direct discrimination on the grounds of race and religion against numerous colleagues:
- Ms Adele Carr stated that “I have been told that Pakistani/Muslim men are paedophiles”
- Ms Carr came into the office one day saying that her neice had been contacted by an Asian man on Facebook and inferred that there had been an attempt to groom her
- Ms Carr commented that Muslim Iran men have sex with 11 year old girls
- Mr Sean Morley had stolen the Claimants car keys
- During a celebratory event for Mr Akbar, Mr Morley made a comment that “the 97 Korean team had two forwards, one called Pak and another called Kee.”
- That Ms Carr, trying to justify Mr Morley’s remark stated that “no matter what happens Sean is always in the right.”
- After handing in his one month notice the owner, Mrs Shurink, sent Mr Akbar a message with a racist edge to it
The Employment Tribunal decision
The Employment Tribunal had to consider all seven claims brought forward by Mr Akbar however only one succeeded on the grounds of race. The other five claims brought by Mr Akbar all failed on the basis that they had been part of the general office discussion.
In regards to the first comment made by Ms Carr that Pakistani/Muslims were paedophiles, the Tribunal found that although the comment likely had been made, it was not a one-off, out of context remark as it had been alleged by the Claimant. It was more likely that it was made during a discussion that Mr Akbar had been a part of.
Additionally, the Tribunal found that the second comment made by Ms Carr was simply her coming into the office after she had learned of this event and sharing it with her colleagues, it did not amount to less favourable treatment nor was it made because of the claimants protected characteristics.
Finally, in considering the third comment made by Ms Carr, the Tribunal felt that the comment would also have been made to a relevant comparator that did not have the protected characteristics held by the Claimant. Ms Carr was merely reporting information which she had learned to her office colleagues and was not targeting Mr Akbar with her comment.
The only claim to succeed was the comment made by Mr Morley. Although, Mr Morley maintained that he had not made the comment in question the Tribunal found that due to the specific and detailed nature of the wording of the allegation made by the Claimant it was likely that he had. The Tribunal concluded that Mr Morley strongly objected to someone of the racial background of the claimant being presented with the award in this way and had directed his comment at Mr Akbar. The demeanour of Mr Morley when giving evidence persuaded the tribunal that there was a genuine element of dislike of the claimant and of his racial background. The Tribunal was therefore satisfied that this was less favourable treatment and the claim succeeded.
Mr Akbar also claimed that Ms Carr had sought to justify Mr Morley’s racist remark by stating that he was always in the right however the Tribunal could find no evidence to illustrate that this was the case. There was nothing to suggest that when she made the remark that she was referring to the specific racist comment made by Mr Morley and therefore this claim also failed.
The Tribunal considered the claim that Mr Morley had stolen Mr Akbar’s car keys but concluded that this was a preposterous allegation. There was no evidence produced to substantiate this claim and it was clear that this was based on a belief he had due to the animosity between Mr Morley and him so the claim was dismissed.
Finally, the last claim the Tribunal had to consider was whether a message sent to all the employees of an Asian man “dripping in gold” had a racist edge. The Tribunal concluded that in the context of the panic buying of toilet rolls during the pandemic this message was something Mrs Shurink had found humorous. There was no evidence to show that the motivation of Mrs Shurink had anything to do with the race or religion of Mr Akbar.
When deciding the amount to award Mr Akbar for injury to feelings the Tribunal had to consider that the incident in question had occurred in November 2019 and that Mr Akbar did not leave until March 2020, as well as the fact that he had raised no grievance or complaint at the time the incident occurred. Therefore, the Tribunal unanimously decided to award the Claimant £1,000 for injury to feelings and a further £155 in interest, granting him a total of £1,555 for the discriminatory comment made towards him by Mr Morley.
Our lawyers’ view on Mr M Akbar v Virtus Law Ltd
Rebekka Kreisz, paralegal at Redmans comments on this case: “While initially, this case strikes me as a situation where a disgruntled former employee set out to try and make some easy money the truth is likely more complex. While I agree with the Tribunal that the majority of these claims were not targeted at the Claimant, it is shocking how people can find it appropriate to make such comments without giving any thought to those around them. I think an important thing for employers to take away from this case is the need to create the kind of work environment where employees can feel comfortable coming forward regarding situations that might be uncomfortable for them.”
The decision of the Employment Tribunal in Mr M Akbar v Virtus Law Ltd: 2408910/2020 can be found here