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24th April 2024

Receiving A Christmas Grinch Award Was Not Religious Discrimination

Children in a classroom with raised hands

At an internal staff awards ceremony, a male, Muslim teaching assistant was awarded the Christmas Grinch Prize. He later brought an employment tribunal claim against the school for religious discrimination.

Salah Toughfar claimed he was “upset and distressed” after being compared to a character with such negative connotations, despite him being unaware of the Christmas-associated creature until a colleague showed him a description. He had previously received the Prankster Award, which he didn’t complain about, although he wasn’t pleased as the connotations associated with a Prankster are troublesome, which Mr. Toughfar believed doesn’t match his character description at all. A colleague told the tribunal Mr Toughfar involved himself in school Christmas activities (e.g. putting up decorations in the classroom) but he would not have Christmas dinner.

He later contested being laughed at by the audience when collecting the trophy. However, the tribunal rejected his claim as the reception he received didn’t differentiate him from the other winners. Therefore, his claims of direct discrimination and harassment in relation to religion were dismissed.

The tribunal was told, Mr Toughfar, a practicing Muslim from Morocco, commenced employment at The Grove School in North London in April 2020. It’s a specialist school for students aged 5-19 with a primary diagnosis of autism, which is “diverse” as there are students and staff from all backgrounds.

Mr. McKay Wood (assistant headteacher) decided on a Christmas theme for the staff awards ceremony that term. As a non-Christian, he didn’t believe any of the awards had any religious references. He was accused of creating his own deadline so the award would go to Mr. Toughfar because he is Muslim. Mr Toughfar received 4 votes from an online ballot, while the other 2 staff members received 3 each.

Later, a meeting was held with a senior member of staff where he handed back the trophy and explained how the award amounted to bullying, humiliation, and discrimination. An email was sent to the HR Manager where he claimed to “have never known a workplace, let alone a school, who’d give a staff member such an unkind and inappropriate trophy. I don’t understand how a decision to give someone a trophy depicting such a character could be permitted. This promotes bullying in front of the whole school staff and is an act of bullying as well as discrimination”.

Judge Bansal said the evidence that the Christmas Grinch Award was given to Mr Toughfar because of his religion was limited. The tribunal was satisfied that the reason the award was given was because he received the highest number of votes before the deadline closed, which resulted in the claim being dismissed.

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