Employers have been urged to warn staff about sending inappropriate cards to colleagues after a Muslim computer worker who received a 40th birthday card saying ‘too old to be a terrorist’ won thousands of pounds in compensation.
Omar Fikri agreed to accept the undisclosed sum after telling an employment tribunal how he was presented with the card in March 2006 by fellow workers at freight company Davies Turner.
Fikri claimed he was discriminated against on the grounds of race and religious beliefs. He told the hearing: “I don’t mind a sense of humour and some jokes about terrorism, but there are limits.”
The tribunal was also told how a fellow worker shouted at Fikri for not answering a phone while he was praying at work last year. Fikri was dismissed from his job in April after an internal investigation into his conduct.
Helen Corden, employment lawyer at Pinsent Masons law firm, said despite the risks of claims being low, HR teams should make line managers aware of the potential for discrimination.
“Where it may become relevant is if an employee thinks that they are being discriminated against in wider terms on the grounds of their age,” she said.
“For example, if an employee is in the process of being selected for redundancy then they may use a card such as this as evidence of the fact that they are viewed as older and that has then had an impact on their selection.”
In this clip, Pinsent Masons employment lawyer Helen Corden says “dodgy” birthday cards are a low level risk but they can give staff useful ammunition if the relationship turns sour.