Postal worker was a victim of discrimination, employment tribunal rules

An employment tribunal (ET) has ruled that a postal worker was a victim of discrimination, harassment and victimisation as a result of his ‘perceived religion’.

The Cardiff ET has ruled that Mr Shunmugaraja was directly discriminated against by his employer, Royal Mail, after a colleague mistakenly mistook him to be a Muslim, and made discriminatory comments.

The comments towards Mr Shunmugaraja followed a row over the use of a prayer room for meetings, and the tribunal ruled that he faced unwanted conduct in relation to his race, as well as being victimised because he had carried out a protected act.

Shunmugaraja was employed by the Royal Mail Group for over 10 years, from August 2007 until his termination in January 2018, and was a Work Area Manager in the Royal Mail’s Cardiff Mail Centre.

In his role, Shunmugaraja was required to hold weekly meetings with his team, which he had elected to hold in the quiet room and book exchange to help a team member who has a hearing impairment.

The room was also used for prayer, contemplation and reading, while there was a designated prayer room on a different floor that is used by Muslim employees.

Mr Shunmugaraja had reported that he found two members of his team, Mr Day and Mr Brown, difficult to manage, with a meeting called to resolve ongoing issues.

During a meeting, Mr Day had questioned why the used the quiet room for meetings, before becoming “aggressive and shouting” at Shunmugaraja, before demanding that they use the Muslim prayer meeting instead.

Subsequently, Mr Shunmugaraja wrote to the HR department at the Royal Mail, alleging that he was being bullied and harassed because of his race, requesting an external investigation because he was concerned that the resident investigator would not be impartial. This made the letter a protected act.

The Royal Mail’s employee relations team wrote to Shunmagaraja to inform him that it did not ordinarily look into bullying and harassment, stating that the issues should be dealt with by a manager.

Judge Laura Howden-Evans said that Mr Day would not have made the comment to someone who was of the same religion as him, and that he was “wound up and upset that (Mr Shunmagaraja) wanted to use the quiet room, which Day personally used for prayers”.

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Donna Martin

Donna Martin

Partner at Mackrell.Solicitors
Donna Martin is a Partner in the Employment team at Mackrell.Solicitors’ London office. She advises both employers and employees on a full range of contentious and non-contentious issues. As an employment law expert, Donna has significant experience in drafting employment contracts and handbooks, advising on grievance and disciplinary procedures and preparatory work prior to tribunals, including advising on the advantages and disadvantages of settling cases.