Tribunal rules Tesco restricted access to Muslim prayer room

Two Tesco employees from Northampton were indirectly discriminated against because of restricted access to prayer facilities at their depot, a tribunal has ruled.

Abdirisak Aden and Mahamed Hasan, both aged 27, were among a number of devout Muslim employees who had lobbied since 2006 for a room to pray in at set times each day at Tesco’s Crick distribution depot in Northamptonshire.

They were granted the use of a security room in 2008, but in 2012 they were set restrictions including that they must tell managers when they were going to pray and must ask for a key for the room.

The Bedford Employment Tribunal found Tesco had committed indirect discrimination and awarded the men an undisclosed sum for injury to their feelings.

The judgement also found that Tesco unlawfully harassed the men through the introduction of prayer time guidelines and the fact Mr Aden and Mr Hasan were asked to sign them.

It also found that the fact Mr Hasan was told the guidelines would be implemented “whether he liked it or not” was also harrassment.

Christopher Fray, equality officer for the Northamptonshire Rights and Equality Council (NREC), which represented the men, said the decision of the tribunal was a landmark ruling.

He said: “A large number of Muslims complained that the nature of these prayer guidelines were being used as a way of controlling and monitoring and harassing them. The Bedford Employment Tribunal upheld their claims and found they were discriminated against on the grounds of their religion.

“This case is a victory not only for Muslims, but for all people who wish to pray while at work. It is one of the first religious discrimination cases that Muslim complainants have won in Britain.”

NREC said both the men had made it clear to their employer that they needed to pray at set times in a clean environment. The organisation alleged that Tesco managers were aware of the difficulties Muslim employees faced while trying to pray with no place allocated for them to do this.

The prayer time guidelines gave specific instructions for the room to be locked, employees had to ask for a key to 
use the room, they were 
asked to fill in a book when they used the room, they were required to inform managers that they were going to 
pray, and they were only allowed to pray as individuals rather than as a group.

A Tesco spokesman said: “We take our responsibilities as an equal opportunities employer very seriously. We are considering the implications of the judge’s ruling and await the full written judgment.”

Northampton Chronicle & Echo, 3 October 2013