Tribunal rules that not every workplace incident involving Muslims will be related to religion

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An NHS consultant was advised to roll up her sleeves at work in accordance with hygienic regulations, but her supervisors did not discriminate against her, according to a tribunal judge’s ruling.

Dr. Farhat Butt claimed that the British national health care had “racially profiled” her. Dr. Butt wears a headscarf and covers everything but her hands, feet, and face when she is in public.

Dr Butt then stepped outside into a hospital corridor, which she believed was a non-clinical area and meant she didn’t have to comply with the “bare below the elbow” hygiene policy.

An employment tribunal heard that this led to a heated altercation which “escalated very quickly” when director of nursing Mary Hytch challenged her while working for an NHS Trust in Bradford.

Now, employment Judge Kirsty Ayre has ruled that not everything that happens in the workplace to a Muslim will be related to religion.

She said: “[Dr Butt]’s own evidence was that religion was not discussed on the day…rather, she gave another reason at the time for not rolling her sleeves up, rather that she believed she was in a non-clinical area of the hospital.

“We accept that the initial challenge was polite and find that the reason matters subsequently became heated was because of [Dr Butt]’s response to being challenged, combined with Mrs Hytch’s response to her not doing as she was asked.

“We also find that the reason Mary Hytch initially challenged [Dr Butt] was because she genuinely believed that she was in breach of the policies.”

Dr Butt was left feeling “upset” at being challenged and this showed in her reaction in an altercation which “escalated very quickly” and during which voices were raised on both sides.

The hearing was told: “[Dr Butt] perceived that she was being challenged by three colleagues who were supporting each other and that she had done nothing wrong…both she and Mrs Hytch became heated and talked in loud voices.

After no outcome was reached in an informal manner, Dr Butt escalated her complaint and said the situation which had made her “feel targeted” had not been handled “professionally or appropriately”.

She refused mediation and an independent investigation was launched in March 2023 as she complained of “deep-rooted problems” with discrimination.

The tribunal heard Dr Butt worked for an NHS Trust in Bradford but worked one day a week as a visiting consultant ophthalmologist at Airedale General Hospital, in Eastburn, West Yorkshire. On days she works, she carries out an ophthalmic surgery.

The panel heard there were hand hygiene guidelines in place which required staff to be “bare below the elbows to facilitate effective hand hygiene.”

Judge Ayre added: “The situation was not handled well by either party and as a result, it escalated quickly.

“It cannot however be said that the escalation was because of religion.

“There are plenty of altercations that take place in the workplace because both parties become angry and upset, and we find that was the case here.”

Imperial Hospital Sylhet

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Dulal Ahmed Chowdhury

Dulal Ahmed Chowdhury is the Editor of The Daily Dazzling Dawn. Previously, he has been serving in important positions in all the famous national dailies of the Bangladesh since the nineties. He has played a commendable role in journalism by participating in various events at the national and international levels. United Nations Conference, World Climate Conference, SAARC Summit are notable among them.

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