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UK Muslim man sues employers after manager 'compared his religion to illness'

The prize bottle of Cognac was switched for a 'cheap' box of chocolates [Getty]

Date of publication: 26 September, 2020

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The Lainston House hotel was ordered to pay £2500 to Zakaria Kioua for 'injury to feelings.'
A Muslim man has successfully sued his former employer for religious harassment after a bottle of Cognac he had won at a staff raffle party was replaced with a "cheap" box of chocolates.

Zakaria Kioua, 37, was told by a manager at the country hotel where he works as a linen porter that giving the alcoholic beverage to him would have been akin to giving nuts to a nut allergy sufferer.

Kioua, who does not drink alcohol, said he felt hurt and humiliated that his religion was compared to an illness.

The incident occurred after a party in January 2017, where Kioua had won a a bottle of Cognac in a prize draw. Kioua was not present at the event to accept the prize, which a colleague suggested be switched for a box of chocolates due to his religious beliefs.

Prior to Kioua leaving the company in 2019, a grievance meeting was held in May 2018 where the offending remarks were made. 

"[If] someone has got a nut allergy or a nut intolerance and they were given a box of chocolates that contains nuts do you not feel it would be appropriate that we then change that prize, you know, on the night?" manager Gaius Wyncoll told Kioua during the session.

Kioua rejected the explanation, saying: "It's different. They don’t want that prize to be going to me and they've used my religion to get what they want... I felt really ignored and humiliated and not cared about."

A tribunal panel ruled in Kioua's favour, ruling that his claim related to section 26 of the UK's 2010 Equality Act.

"A nut allergy is an illness, a life-threatening illness. It is not an acceptable point of comparison. It minimises the importance of Mr Kioua's beliefs and practices," the tribunal said in its judgement.

"The point is not that [the swap] was well-intentioned. The point is that it should not have been said, just as the decision should not have been made to change Mr Kioua’s prize.

"Both are on the grounds of his religion and neither should have happened; both are offensive and caused him distress."

Lainston House was ordered to pay £2,000 ($2550) to Kioua for "injury to feelings".

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