EHRC helps lab assistant win settlement after he was fired by boss who claimed he had been radicalised

Published: 28 March 2024

A student lab assistant has received a financial settlement from his former employer, Micropathology Ltd, following allegations of race and religious discrimination.

Micropathology Ltd, based in Coventry, sacked Waqas Rai, 23, without notice on 31 December 2021. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has supported his case.

Months after his dismissal, Mr Rai’s former manager gave a university lecture which was recorded and uploaded online. In the recording, the manager could be heard openly discussing the reasons for Mr Rai’s dismissal and saying he thought he had been ‘radicalised’.

In later correspondence with the university, the manager explicitly compared Mr Rai to ‘the man who killed the MP in Southend’, saying his ‘very intelligent’ but ‘totally passive’ behaviour was an indication that he had been radicalised. Sir David Amess MP was killed in 2021 by Ali Harbi Ali, who was convicted of murder and the preparation of terrorist acts.

Mr Rai’s discrimination claim against his former employer was taken to an employment tribunal, but the parties settled before a final hearing. The settlement does not contain an admission of liability on the part of Micropathology Ltd, but they have published a public statement regarding the case and committed to carrying out equality and diversity training.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission provided funding and assistance with the case as part of its legal support scheme for race discrimination cases.

Baroness Kishwer Falkner, Chairwoman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:  

The manner of Waqas’s dismissal, and the comments subsequently made about him in an attempt to justify it, are totally unacceptable. Everyone has the right to go to work without worrying they’re going to be treated differently because of their race or religion.

"On this occasion the comments were shared publicly, but it doesn’t matter whether they were made in a lecture hall, a laboratory, an office or even in an email – discrimination should not be tolerated anywhere.

"As Britain’s equality watchdog, we will continue to use our unique powers to uphold the law and prevent discrimination in the workplace.

 Waqas Rai said:

I couldn’t believe it when I first heard what was said about me in the recording. I just felt so angry and confused.

"It has really affected my mental health and made me feel anxious about continuing to work in the industry. Every time I join a new institution or start a new job, I feel like I’m always going to be paranoid about what people think. I worry I’m not able to be myself because of what people might be thinking about me.

"I hope that sharing my experience can help prevent it from happening to others in the future, but to anyone who’s been treated like I have, I want to say that there is help out there. I’d like to thank my lawyer and the Equality and Human Rights Commission for their support.

The claimant was represented by Asif Timol of Fairmont Legal, with support from the Islamophobia Response Unit.

Asif Timol said:

This case has had a significant impact on my client, but I hope the settlement will help heal the damage caused.