An ex-porter is taking St Catherine’s college to an employment tribunal with the accusation of racial and religious discrimination.
Laiq Abbasi, who had been employed as a porter since November 2007, resigned last August claiming to have been constructively dismissed.
Part of his complaint accuses a member of staff of making racist remarks. St Catherine’s denies his claims of discrimination and says the charges have “no merit”.
Speaking exclusively to Cherwell, Abbasi claims the accused member of staff in 2008 got drunk at the College bar, then came to the reception area and made anti-Islamic comments. These included, “All of you Muslims: why do you blow yourselves up?”, “Why do you abuse your women?”, “I don’t believe in your religion” and “You’re stupid for believing in your religion.”
A spokesperson for St Catherine’s said, “We confirm that we have recently received an employment tribunal complaint from Mr. Abbasi, a former Lodge porter who resigned in August last year after a failed application for a more senior post. The College sees no merit in Mr Abbasi’s complaint and will be vigorously defending its position. The matter is now being dealt with by our lawyers who have advised us that no further comments on this matter should be made at this time.”
However, the member of staff involved in the alleged islamophobic incidents later sent a letter of apology for his actions to Abbasi. “I very much regret that you had to experience my recent extremely stupid, unthinking conduct caused by drinking far too much,” he wrote.
“This involved childlish negative abuse of your religion, which I should have not engaged in, and was accompanied by some very immature conduct. All of this was most rude, unacceptable and offensive. “I am extremely sorry that I have acted in such a thoughtless manner. There is absolutely no justification or excuse for behaving so entirely inappropriately. I unreservedly apologise. I can assure you that there will be no repetition of this type of behaviour.
“At the same time as apologising for my behaviour, I would like to apologise for having put you through the trouble of making a complaint.” The College has responded to the comments, and other allegations, through its legal firm Peninsula in documents they are presenting to the Tribunal. In these documents,they argue that only one complaint was ever received about such an incident and this was resolved at the time
to Abbasi’s satisfaction.
Abbasi says does not consider the incident to be isolated, and believes he is not the only one to have been affected by the senior staff member’s behaviour.
The College points out he never used their formal grievance procedures to notify them. Cherwell has found no evidence that the staff member in question has acted this way to another member of the college.
This is not Abbasi’s only claim against St Catz. He also says that when a laptop was stolen from the porter’s lodge, he and a black porter were the first to be questioned, despite not being on shift at the time it went missing. He argues this is further evidence of racism.The date of the hearing has not yet been set.