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Discrimination claim – TfL employee wins claim after his own manager doubts his ability to speak fluent English

A former employee of Transport for London has won his claim for discrimination and victimisation because he was told he could not participate in conference calls and training. The reason given was because English was not his first language.

Mr Khawaja who worked as a tunnel traffic co-ordinator on the tube network had joined the TfL in 2016. Before joining he had worked for them through an agency.

When testifying at the tribunal Mr Khawaja stated that his supervisor Susan Clarke had stopped him taking part in conference calls and office ‘huddles.’ Another employee Mr Omer, who is Pakistani was also excluded from these development and training opportunities. The calls were supposed to be training opportunities and while Susan Clarke oversaw them, neither of the two men were permitted to attend.

The tribunal learned that Mr Khawaja had been told during an appraisal in 2017 that because English was not his first language Ms Clarke would not give him permission to attend the calls or huddles. She thought that he would give the wrong information because of his supposed lack of command of the English language.

 When questioned Ms Clarke said that on one occasion there had been some confusion over the word ‘alight’ which Mr Khawaja took to mean ‘set on fire.’

Upon raising his concerns to a manager Ms Clarke was asked to apologise to Mr Khawaja and attend conflict management training. Mr Khawaja’s shifts were also changed so that he did not work with her.

On a shift where he was told he would be working for Ms Clarke he again raised a concern, only to be told that he needed to work the shift or face disciplinary action. Mr Khawaja raised yet another grievance, attended the grievance meeting and an investigation was started.

Investigations did not uphold his grievance, with the conclusion being that Ms Clarke’s intentions had not been to cause offence. Later in the year Mr Khawaja took sick leave due to work-related stress. He remained absent until his resignation in June 2018.

After his resignation Mr Khawaja brought a claim for race discrimination and victimisation during April 2018. He later added breach of contract and unauthorised deductions to his wages to his claims.

At the tribunal hearing Judge Sage said that the tribunal had concluded that based on the probability of evidence, the claimant had indeed been subject to race discrimination.

The judge said that TfL had failed to show the way they allocated training opportunities was not discrimination against the claimant.

Unanimously, the tribunal upheld the claims Mr Khawaja had made for direct discrimination, victimisation and unauthorised wage deductions.

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