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Sikh Youth In Birmingham Sues After Colleague Lands Chopper On His Turban

Mojhinder Bal, a  Sikh working at the Jobcentre, has won a case for religious harassment and is set to get compensation after a colleague suggested a remote control helicopter be landed on his turban, Daily
PTI December 04, 2010 8:48 IST
PTI
Mojhinder Bal, a  Sikh working at the Jobcentre, has won a case for religious harassment and is set to get compensation after a colleague suggested a remote control helicopter be landed on his turban, Daily Mail reports.

Mojhinder Bal laughed when colleague Amiduddin began flying the toy round the Jobcentre Plus office, ‘landing' the device on desks and cabinets.  

But the Sikh took offence when another colleague, Sue Ramjan-Coley, suggested Amiduddin land the device ‘on Mo's turban - he's got a flat surface'.

During the incident on November 27 2007, Bal, then told Ramjan-Coley she was ‘obsessed' with his turban and suggested she get one for herself.  

To this she allegedly replied ‘I could do with one, I'm having a bad hair day', though the tribunal concluded that this comment was not made in an offensive way.

Although Ramjan-Coley denied suggesting the helicopter be landed on the claimant's turban, the judge ruled against the Jobcentre, and found that the comments were ‘inherently racist'.  

But the judge at the Birmingham tribunal threw out several other claims of race and religious discrimination, indirect race and religious discrimination, victimisation and failure of the Jobcentre to properly investigate the grievance.  

In fact the Jobcentre investigated 44 different allegations brought by Mr Bal against eight members of staff, producing a 170 page document described as ‘one of the largest investigations' they had ever undertaken.

Bal had claimed the Jobcentre's investigation left him feeling ‘victimised and harassed', but the tribunal concluded it was conducted reasonably although they were ‘surprised' that the helicopter incident was not deemed to be harassment.  

The tribunal also said that despite Bal claiming honesty was one of his core values they pointed out that he was the only witness giving evidence who had a dishonest record, when in 2004 he had received a three year written reprimand and a one year promotion ban for racking up hundreds of pounds in 22 hours of unauthorised private phone calls from work.

They said that some of his evidence was ‘not credible' whilst describing a witness, Cynthia John, who said that Bal was trying to create a race issue within the team as ‘credible and robust'.

Bal, who has worked at the company since 1992 was represented by a trade union rep during the 11-day hearing in Birmingham.  

Bal also accused Ms Ramjan-Coley of being ‘degrading', ‘offensive' and ‘intimidating' after she asked him if he slept with his turban on and if he took it off in the shower but the tribunal concluded that ‘no such query was made'.  

It also found that other discussions between Mr Bal and Ms Ramjan-Coley about his turban were ‘positive enquiries about the wearing of a turban and were not derogatory, intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive in their nature'.

Bal took a period of absence between December 10 2007 and January 31 2008 for paternity and then special leave, after his wife gave birth to a baby.   But in January he began formulating the grievance, which he sent to the West Bromwich branch of Jobcentre Plus.  

Bal, who still works at the Jobcentre, is now set for a pay-out at a remedy hearing in February next year.