A Muslim woman who was repeatedly asked if she drank alcohol and wore a bikini on the beach was not discriminated against, a tribunal ruled.
Scientist Jwan Abdullah, 39, was questioned by a colleague about whether she drank alcohol, wore a bikini on the beach and even whether she had been in an arranged marriage, an employment tribunal heard.
June Sillars, a lab assistant from the University of Glasgow, also asked why Ms Abdullah would “want to lose her liberation” by possibly moving to the Middle East.
Ms Abdulah said that as a Muslim she felt humiliated by her colleague and sued the university for racial discrimination.
However, a tribunal rejected her claims, ruling that the university had acted correctly in handling her complaint about the “extremely embarrassing and oppressive” conversation, and could not take formal action because Ms Abdullah did not want to meet Ms Sillars because of her behaviour.
The tribunal, held in Glasgow, heard that Ms Abdullah started working at the university in January 2021 as a laboratory scientist, testing PCR Covid samples.
Ms. Abdullah, who is of Iraqi Kurdish nationality, is a practicing Muslim woman but faced “ridiculous” comments about her religion less than a month after starting.
Made light of her religious beliefs
The panel learned that in February 2021, two of Ms Abdullah’s colleagues approached their team leader to express “concern” over how fellow lab scientist Ms Sillars had spoken to her.
The panel heard Ms Sillars “slandered” Ms Abdullah about her drinking and “made light of her religious beliefs”. She asked her, “Not even a glass of wine in the evening? Not even one glass? How about a rum truffle?”
When asked, Ms Abudullah said “repeatedly no” but was questioned “constantly” in a way that made her “visibly uncomfortable”.
In a formal complaint to her boss, Ms Abdullah said Ms Sillars had “laughed and mocked” all of her answers about drinking before questioning why she didn’t smoke shisha as that was her “culture”.
Ms Abdullah’s manager said he was “deeply sorry” that she felt “humiliated” before later offering to meet Ms Sillars. However, Mrs. Abdullah did not want to meet her.
The panel heard that Ms. Sillars had been called out for her “unacceptable” behaviour. She was “very upset” and claimed she was “just busy chatting”.
She wanted to meet Mrs. Abdullah in person to apologize.
In December 2021, Ms. Abdullah filed a complaint saying she had been bullied and discriminated against in a work environment that was “like a jungle”.
The appeal was also rejected
The complaint was not accepted, but recommendations were made to “support her career longer term”. Her appeal was also rejected.
In February 2022, Ms. Abdullah resigned because of the alleged discrimination she had been subjected to.
Labor judge Murdo Macleod said Ms Abdullah “should not have put up with” the conversation with Ms Sillars, but said it was handled “swiftly and decisively” and that colleagues had supported her in raising it with management earlier.
The panel found that because Ms. Abdullah had refused to meet Ms. Sillars, the complaint was treated as “informal” because of her unwillingness to get Ms. Sillars into trouble.
Judge Macleod added: “The tribunal’s strong impression was that (her line manager) very easily understood why the plaintiff was uncomfortable and humiliated by this conversation, and would have preferred more formal action to be taken on the complaint, but was prevented from doing this. her own wishes.”
The panel rejected all of its claims of direct racial discrimination because there was “no basis” to suggest that Ms. Abdullah had been treated less favourably.