A former Royal Mail postal worker whose claims of unfair dismissal and victimisation were upheld by the Employment Tribunal (ET) has reached a settlement with his employer for an undisclosed sum in compensation (Musa v Royal Mail Group Ltd.).
Abdul Musa, who was supported in his claim by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, began working for Royal Mail Group Ltd. at its Blackburn delivery office in May 2000. Although Royal Mail had ‘dignity at work’ policies and procedures in place, and had carried out a diversity training programme, this did not prevent racist behaviour at the Blackburn office and this was tolerated by managers.
In 2006, Mr Musa made a complaint of racial discrimination against one of his work colleagues. He contended that from this time onwards he was ostracised by most of his fellow workers and that the Communication Workers Union (CWU) supported a smear campaign against him when the colleague he had complained about was dismissed and several other members of staff were disciplined as a result of his allegations. Mr Musa was himself accused of inappropriate conduct by those asked to give an account of what had taken place. He claimed that these allegations were false and that witnesses were being intimidated in an attempt to secure his dismissal. Tensions were running high and he was suspended from work pending further investigation and subsequently dismissed.
The ET found that Mr Musa’s dismissal was unfair. Royal Mail had been unable to prove that it was for a potentially fair reason. It had failed to carry out a reasonable investigation into all his assertions, or the circumstances that ensued, before deciding to dismiss him, so there were no reasonable grounds for believing that he was guilty of the conduct complained of.
Furthermore, it was conceded that Mr Musa’s complaint of racial discrimination constituted a ‘protected act’ for the purposes of the Race Relations Act 1976 (RRA). In the ET’s view, in all the circumstances he had been treated less favourably than a person who had not done the protected act. Managers at the Blackburn office had been aware that racism amongst staff members was a problem but had taken no reasonable action to protect Mr Musa or to prevent the discriminatory behaviour. They had instead relied on ‘incredible’ counter-allegations to secure his removal from his post in order to solve the problem posed by his continued employment.
The RRA has now been replaced by the Equality Act 2010. The Act protects people from being victimised for making complaints about any form of discrimination at work. Employers who allow a culture in which discriminatory conduct is tolerated run a serious risk of ET claims, with no upper limit on the amount of compensation payable.