Former Dyson engineer succeeds in harassment and discrimination claim

By agency reporter
September 22, 2020

Bristol Employment Tribunal has upheld three allegations of harassment related to religion and one allegation of religious discrimination brought by senior electronic systems engineer, Zeinab Alipourbabaie, who worked for Dyson at its bases in Malmesbury and Hullavington, Wiltshire, from December 2014 until June 2018 when she resigned.

The Tribunal found that she had been subjected to discrimination and harassment which extended over several months while she was working for Dyson. The Employment Tribunal ruled that her resignation was constructive dismissal.
 
Ms Alipourbabaie, who now lives in the Midlands, is an Iranian Muslim and was represented by Leigh Day employment lawyer Leila Moran. 
Her claims related to her treatment and discriminatory comments made by senior technical project manager, Kamaljit Chana, who joined Dyson in January, 2017. Mr Chana is also an elected Conservative councillor for the ethnically diverse Pinner South, Harrow Council. The Tribunal found that in a one-to-one meeting with Miss Alipourbabaie in February 2017, Mr Chana said: “I do not like Muslims” “Muslims are violent“ and “Pakistani men are grooming our girls”. 
 
The judgment of the Tribunal stated: “The Claimant’s case is that in the course of the conversation he asked where she was from and that she told him that she was from Iran. He asked if she was a Muslim and she replied that she came from a Muslim family  . . . he said “that he did not like Muslims. He said they are violent, talked about terrorist attacks, and repeated that he did not like Muslims and they are violent. 
 
“Mr Chana talked about 9/11 and said his family did not take flights any more because they were scared.….He went on to say Pakistani men are grooming our girls.” She goes on to say that she then left the meeting as she felt uncomfortable and shocked.” Although Mr Chana denied he had made those comments, the Tribunal said Miss Alipourbabaie’s evidence was both compelling and persuasive. 
 
Mr Chana then proceeded to exclude Ms Alipourbabaie from meetings and emails making it difficult for her to carry out her role, both of which the Tribunal found amounted to harassment related to religion.  The Tribunal also found that Ms Alipourbabaie had suffered religious discrimination when Mr Chana expressed unjustified critical comments about Ms Alipourbabaie to a Dyson Vice President while she was being considered for promotion. The Tribunal also noted that the Dyson promotion system lacked transparency and allowed for very little retrospective analysis of any particular decision.
 
After Ms Alipourbabaie had been denied three possible promotions recommended by her line manager and she was forced to continue working in the same area as Mr Chana, despite her grievance about his bullying and harassing behaviour being upheld, she resigned her post.
 
Ms Alipourbabaie said: “No one should have to endure the pain of harassment and discrimination that I suffered while working at Dyson as  a result of actions of Kamaljit Chana, a man who, as the Tribunal noted, is a councillor. As such he has a public duty not to hold discriminatory views but should set an example being fair minded and tolerant of all religions. Dyson Technology Ltd was fully aware of Mr Chana’s bullying and harassing behaviour, but did not take robust action to address the religion based discrimination and harassment I was subjected to. The way Dyson treated me caused me distress and anxiety over long period of time and left me with no choice but to resign from my job to protect my dignity and health from further harm. “
 
Leigh Day lawyer Leila Moran said: “My client has fought bravely to bring this case to Tribunal and the judgment is a powerful moral victory. She was put in an awful position in which she endured harassment and discrimination because of her religion over a protracted period of time. In the end she had no option but to resign. The Tribunal accepted that Mr Chana made wholly unacceptable comments, that he deliberately excluded her from meetings and emails, and that he expressed critical views about whether she should be promoted.
This case should serve as a warning to other companies that all employees must be treated absolutely fairly and that any harassment and discrimination on grounds of religion will not be tolerated by the Employment Tribunal.”
 
Remedy for Ms Alipourbabaie will be ruled at a later hearing.

* Leigh Day https://www.leighday.co.uk/

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