Saini v All Saints Haque Centre – Employment Appeal Tribunal

The Case

Mr Saini worked at the All Saints Haque Centre. He and his former colleague Mr Chandel, the manager of the Centre, are Hindus. The Second and Third Respondents were Ravidassis who worked at the Centre but had lost their jobs. They remained on the Board of Directors and still retained some control over the Centre.

The Respondents resented the fact that the employees who retained their positions at the Centre were Hindus, and believed this to be due to Mr Chandel's managerial prerogative. They planned to dismiss Mr Chandel and commenced a disciplinary investigation against him.

Mr Saini was drawn in to the investigation and interviewed in relation to Mr Chandel's conduct. Mr Saini believed that he was being unduly pressurised by the Respondents to provide ammunition for them to justify dismissing Mr Chandel. He also felt that the investigation was carried out in a bullying and intimidating manner.

Mr Saini resigned and claimed that he had suffered discrimination on grounds of religion or belief.

As the Respondents' actions were not motivated by Mr Saini's personal religious beliefs, the question arose as to whether he could be subjected to unlawful harassment on grounds of the religious belief held by another.

The Decisions

The Employment Tribunal rejected Mr Saini's claim. Although he was clearly a "victim", as they put it, of the religious discrimination occurring against Mr Chandel, this behaviour was not motivated by his religion or belief. The Tribunal held that Respondents had not acted in breach of the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 (the "Regulations").

Mr Saini presented an appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal ("EAT"), who concluded that he had been harassed on grounds of religion or belief. The scope of the Regulations, they held, is wide enough to protect people from discrimination, even where they themselves do not possess the particular characteristic in question. The Tribunal had therefore erred in rejecting his claim in this regard.

What does it mean for you?

We now have clear authority for the proposition that employees can suffer unlawful discrimination where the treatment is based on the religious belief held by another. Employers should be mindful of this risk and take preventative action to reduce the chances of circumstances arising that could provide grounds for a successful claim in this regard. This includes putting in place robust and well publicised equal opportunities policies and ensuring that managers receive adequate training on this area of law.