A Muslim engineer at a supply plant for nuclear reactors received a £3,500 payout for direct religious discrimination after a false rumour spread from staff to management resulted in counter-terror police visiting Mo Master at his home.
Master, who had worked at Springfields Fuels in Preston for 28 years, had taken a voluntary redundancy payment of around £70,000 in February 2018, citing allegations about the loss of flexible working to attend Friday prayers and that a colleague had said: “we live in a Christian country who has given you permission to go and pray during working hours” which the tribunal ruled were out of time.
An extension, however, was given so Mr Master could appeal the discriminatory Prevent referral, which occurred after Simon Johnson, the plant’s head of security, contacted the external regular, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), after spurious rumours persisted that Master had said that British soldiers based in the Middle East “should die”.
Plain-clothed officers attended the address of Mr Master three months later in May 2018, who was unaware of any referral. The ninety-minute meeting, described in the documentation as being respectful on both sides, included questions about Master’s religious observance, whether his children were required to fast, and his friendship networks, which he accepted the police were entitled to ask and that he should respond. His wife and father had been present throughout the meeting, which caused the latter distress, as this was the only time police had visited their property. The police were satisfied that the matter required no further action, and according to evidence submitted by Mr Master, officers allegedly expressed that the matter was a “waste of their time”. Police had also expressed ‘disquiet‘ about waiting until to May to investigate a report submitted in January.
The 25-page judgment made clear that the rumour arose from “an unknown source that was allowed to persist and circulate and was now being passed up the management chain”.
The judgment added no context, explanation, or evidence of when the rumour began or even who made the report to management, nor could the respondent explain its origin.
Judge Mark Leach noted: “Had the claimant not been Muslim, this rumour would not have persisted to the extent that it did”.
The call made to the ONR was deemed “little more than a kneejerk reaction to being presented with unsubstantiated allegation” about an “employee making an extremist comment and information about the same employee displaying behaviour of greater religious observance” as no efforts were made internally to investigate before contacting the ONR, or even after that.
Nor had the ONR in this referral been told that the rumour had an unknown source and that it was unsubstantiated – or that no such issues had arisen during Mr Master’s long years of employment.
Judge Leach expressed surprise that no documents or email to the ONR had were generated, or even what the ONR had said in response before making their Prevent referral.
The unfavourable and potential for less favourable treated concerned the persistence of the false rumour about the British troops comment and the passing of their personal data (including their home address), his religion, and attributing the false comment which would lessen their standing with others, even though such comments were baseless.
The tribunal found that a significant factor in the rumour persisting was that Mr Master was Muslim, as had a non-Muslim employee made this comment (the hypothetical comparator), the rumour would not have persisted, and, therefore, they concluded, the climate of a difficult management issue to one of security would not have existed.
Master, however, must pay his former employers £7,622 in costs after making a series of other claims that the tribunal dismissed, including disability discrimination and constructive dismissal.
Tell MAMA continues to document a rise in discrimination reports, notably in workplaces in recent years and provides a free tool kit to download, produced in partnership with the Yorkshire & North Derbyshire branch of the GMB trade union.
Other case studies highlighted by Tell MAMA include other forms of discrimination towards Muslim individuals under a broader securitisation framework. And the misuse of safeguarding protocols regarding children, as highlighted in previous annual reports.