A landmark religious discrimination case heard in Birmingham is set to be given a preliminary hearing next month.
The hearing will mark the final stages of a case which set new ground for discrimination law in the UK as the first case of its kind of ethnic minority groups discriminating against each other on the grounds of religion.
A panel sitting at Birmingham Employment Tribunal unanimously found in favour of Mr Jaswant Chandel recently. West Midlands law firm Wilkes Partnership, who represented Mr Chandel, will know in the next few months how much he will be awarded after a preliminary date was set for February. The company secretary was dismissed as project manager of the All Saints Haque Centre in Wolverhampton because he was a Hindu. He is seeking reinstatement in his position or alternatively compensation up to £300,000.
The employment tribunal found that the Centre, largely run by adherents to the Ravidass faith – who share beliefs with Sikhs and with Hindus – had both unfairly dismissed Mr Chandel and discriminated against him on the grounds of his faith.
The finding was made not only against the company but also two of its directors, Sat Paul and Dilbag Bungay.
“The case centred on Mr Chandel being dismissed because of his religious beliefs,” Jennifer Allen, of Wilkes, said.
“The treatment of Mr Chandel at the hands of the board of directors who were primarily Ravidassi had not been in accordance with any of the company’s normal procedures. He had been treated in an oppressive manner and denied access to essential documentation of evidence to allow him to prepare for the case against him.”
The All Saints Haque Centre is an advice centre located in the All Saints district of Wolverhampton which has been running successfully for 20 years.
Mr Chandel had worked there for ten years, being successful in increasing the funding and enhancing the reputation of the centre.
“The principal reason given by the directors of the Haque Centre for Mr Chandel’s dismissal was conduct,” added Ms Allen. “In the first instance he had been subject to investigation into allegations that there had been a failure to account properly for monies paid over by users of the Centre’s services – allegations which were unsubstantiated.
The tribunal heard evidence that the two directors, who were named as respondents, had stated from the outset that it was their intention to remove Mr Chandel because he was a Hindu. This intention to remove Mr Chandel manifested itself in a course of conduct in investigating and disciplining Mr Chandel that was not in line with either company or statutory procedures. Mr Chandel was not afforded access to documentation, and was given little or no opportunity to defend himself at meetings, at which he was vastly outnumbered.”
Ms Allen commented that the result was the proper outcome: “In an attempt to remove him from his position at the Haque Centre Mr Chandel was subject to unsubstantiated allegations of dishonesty which have ruined his standing in the local community. He was treated with disrespect and injustice throughout the process of his dismissal. All of this was, in reality, because he did not share the Ravidass faith.”