Readers may recall a case that hit the headlines in the news earlier this year concerning a teacher who was told she could not wear the hijab in school classrooms while teaching children as it inhibited non verbal communication. The case was decided at the EAT and the decision is on their website AZMI v KIRKLEES METROPOLITAN BOROUGH COUNCIL. In short, the EAT ruled that although banning garments that cover the face was indirect discrimination, the reason for the policy (not inhibiting non verbal communication) was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. The discrimination was therefore lawful due to the legitimate aim defence. It is also worth noting that the employer helped themselves by investigating in some detail whether the wearing of the hijab was a real issue and by allowing her to wear it when she was not working with children.
Aziz did however receive an award of £1,100.00 (£1000.00 increased by 10% because of the employer’s failure to deal with her grievance) because the Tribunal upheld her complaint about victimisation. This is a reminder that employees do not have to have to win their main tribunal claim to claim victimisation. Making a claim that they believe to be valid is sufficient even if the Tribunal on the day decides against the employee.