Religion and discrimination claims – why let common sense get in the way?


From the Solicitors Journal 08/08/11:

A Sikh council worker who refused to join an office fridge-cleaning rota because his religious beliefs banned him from touching or handling meat products could* be the victim of discrimination, the EAT has ruled.

*My emphasis! ;-)

The EAT heard that although all Sikhs were not necessarily banned from eating or touching meat, the claimant was a member of a revivalist branch with different rules.

A revivalist branch? *Rolls eyes*. OK, OK, carry on officer. ;-)

Delivering judgment in Chatwal v Wandsworth Borough Council(UKEAT/0487/10/JOJ), Recorder Luba said Mr Chatwal was a customer services adviser in the council’s technical services department.

Recorder Luba said that in 2008 the council introduced a requirement that staff using the communal kitchen must take part in cleaning the fridge.

“Having declined to comply with the fridge cleaning requirement, he did not participate in the rota and was, in consequence, not able to use the kitchen any longer.”

Oh for goodness’ sake: are Revivalist Sikhs prevented from popping on a pair of marigolds now? Or what’s stopping him scraping it out with a spatula and keeping the suspicious remains safely at arms’ length? Given the hideous condition of most workplace fridges and the diabolical remnants that lurk within, surely that’s what any sensible person would do, regardless of their ‘religion’.

And don’t get me wrong – I’ve every respect for religion and religious beliefs, but this is just silly.


  1. Actually, I can see the claimant's point.

    It's a mistake to think that all adherents of a religion will have the same beliefs. As a Reform Jew, I will do things that an Orthodox Jew would not.

    So, for example, an Orthodox Jew would not work on Saturdays full stop. I prefer not to work on Saturdays, but have been known to do the odd overtime shift where absolutely necessary or attend an international meeting or conference for my job where it falls on a Saturday. I would, however, not take a job where Satuday working was a regular feature of the job.

    I can also imagine Orthodox Jews having an issue with being required to handle non-kosher food prodcuts. I'm not aware of a religious prohibition that extends beyond not eating such foodstuffs, but the taboo element is not to be underestimated. Even while wearing rubber gloves or holding the item at arm's length, you still have to handle (and even smell) the taboo item. I think it's probably hard to understand the emotional impact of religious taboos if you've never had experience of them.

  2. It's political correctness gone mad I say!

    Is it something to do with that Common Market?

  3. Serious Fraud Solicitors18 August 2011 at 20:40

    I agree with white rabbit, political correctness!, it makes everyone thing more about what and when they say it

  4. Beth - yeah... you're probably right. I guess it depends if he used the fridge at all. If he steered well clear and didn't keep anything in there EVER I guess his claim holds water. If not, maybe he's using religion as a pretext to avoid cleaning a stinky fridge.

    In any case, I stand corrected (said the man in the orthopaedic shoes)... ;-)

    WR - That damn common market... it's got a lot to answer for.

    Serious Fraud Solicitors (now w/o the link) - yaha!


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