Royal Mail ordered to pay £230,000 to harassed Hindu ex-worker

A former manager with Royal Mail has been awarded nearly £230,000 after a tribunal concluded he had been subjected to harassment and discrimination at work.

Mathan Shunmugaraja, who is a Hindu, was called a “sly dog” by one colleague and was embroiled in a dispute with another over the use of a room in which he was mistaken for a Muslim.

The tribunal also heard that after Shunmugaraja took time off work because of anxiety, one of his bosses threatened to stop his sick pay.

Shunmugaraja, a maths graduate, was eventually dismissed. He unsuccessfully applied for dozens of other jobs but could not find work and has split his time between sofa-surfing in the UK and living in a rural part of India with his mother.

The tribunal was told that Shunmugaraja described himself as being of British Indian origin, and as a Hindu. He began working for Royal Mail in Cardiff in August 2007 and by 2017 was earning £32,000 a year.

The worker who in June 2017 called Shunmugaraja “a sly dog” claimed the slur did not have racial connotations but the tribunal accepted the term “dog” and the phrase “sly dog” would be perceived as an insult in many cultures and could have racial connotations.

It said: “The tribunal finds it was reasonable for the claimant to be so offended, given that the term is regarded as being highly offensive in many cultures.”

In his evidence, Shunmugaraja said what particularly upset him was that the comment had been made in front of his line manager but no further action was taken against the colleague.

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One of Shunmugaraja’s roles was to hold weekly training and planning meetings. He began using a space known as the “quiet room” that a Christian colleague used for praying. In August 2017 the colleague reacted angrily when he realised that Shunmugaraja was using it as a meeting room. He got Shunmugaraja’s religion wrong, saying he would not have used a Muslim prayer room for the meeting. The tribunal concluded this amounted to religious discrimination.

Shunmugaraja described his dismissal in January 2018 as a “fall from grace”. He said he had considered his colleagues at Royal Mail as family.

The tribunal said: “The claimant loved his job, was clearly performing at a very good level and had every expectation that he would continue to progress his career at Royal Mail until his retirement.”

Royal Mail was ordered to pay £229,000, which includes compensation for lost and future earnings and for injury to feelings.

A spokesperson said: “Royal Mail is disappointed by this decision. We are now carefully reviewing the findings. Royal Mail takes its equality and diversity obligations very seriously and is committed to a workplace free of discrimination and harassment, where our colleagues feel respected and able to thrive.”


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