A man of Pakistani heritage who alleged race discrimination at a law firm has been awarded £1,000 in compensation by an employment tribunal over a disputed comment.
In Mr M Akbar v Virtus Law Ltd, the claimant alleged he had been discriminated against on the grounds of race and religion. He told Manchester Employment Tribunal to consider his seven claims against section 13 of the Equality Act, which states that a person discriminates against another if, because of a protected characteristic, they treat another person less favourably than they would treat others without that characteristic.
One claim succeeded on the grounds of race. Six claims were dismissed by the tribunal.
The successful claim concerned an alleged comment made by a colleague, Sean Morley, after Akbar broke the record for settlements and was presented with a bottle of prosecco for his achievements. Morley strongly denied making the comment. However, the tribunal said it ‘unanimously and wholeheartedly preferred the evidence of the claimant to Mr Morley and found that the comment had been made’.
The tribunal 'was satisfied that in some way it was a private comment which had been directed by Mr Morley towards the claimant and that it had not, as with other allegations as set out [in the judgment], been part of any office discussion'.
On why the comment was made, the tribunal said 'it was unanimously satisfied that the reason why was the racial characteristics of the claimant'.
Six claims against the firm were dismissed.
One of the claims that was dismissed concerned a WhatsApp message of a photo of an Asian man 'dripping in gold' sent by the firm's owner to all the employees. The claimant believed the message had a 'racist edge to it'.
The tribunal said compensation was to compensate the claimant, not punish the employer. The firm was ordered to pay £1,155, including interest.
The claimant left the firm in March 2020 to join another firm as a litigator.
In a statement, Virtus Law said it was 'extremely disappointed' with the judgment, especially as the majority of the claimant's allegations were dismissed. 'Whilst we accept the tribunal process and will abide by the judgment, the claimant presented no evidence and point 7 was decided purely on the oral evidence of the claimant and Mr Morley, the tribunal favouring the claimant. Virtus Law has always been and will continue to be an equal opportunities employer. We have a robust equal opportunities and diversity policy and are committed to its adherence by all employees and consultants,' the firm said.