Halawi v WDFG UK Ltd: Another religious discrimination case?

The Guardian reports that Mrs Nohad Halawi, a Christian working at Heathrow Airport, is taking a case to the Court of Appeal claiming unfair dismissal and unlawful discrimination. She alleges that she and other Christian staff were victims of systematic harassment by Muslim colleagues and that this led to her losing her job. She was unsuccessful both before the Employment Tribunal and the Employment Appeal Tribunal: see Halawi v WDFG UK Ltd (t/a World Duty Free) & Anor [2013] UKEAT 0166 13 0410.

Mrs Halawi worked as a uniformed beauty consultant airside at Heathrow Terminal 3. The duty-free outlet World Duty Free [WDF] withdrew her store approval, which meant that she was unable to work airside any longer. She had no written contract of employment and worked in the way that she did as a result of a complex web of relationships:

  • she had formed a company called Nohad Ltd;
  • each month Nohad Ltd invoiced the second respondent, Caroline South Associates [CSA], for Mrs Halawi’s work at Terminal 3 at an hourly rate set by CSA;
  • CSA provided a management service to a cosmetics firm, Shiseido, which included the staffing of Shiseido’s space at the airport;
  • Mrs Halawi wore Shiseido’s uniform while selling its products in WDF;
  • WDF bought the cosmetics from Shiseido, took the profit from sales and managed the outlet as a whole, including the IT and till system;
  • WDF arranged Mrs Halawi’s airside pass; and
  • WDF provided a set of working rules for those occupying the selling space under the WDF banner [para 2].

The core issue was whether or not Mrs Halawi was an employee for the purposes of s 230 of the Employment Rights Act 1996, a worker within the meaning of Regulation 2(1) of the Working Time Regulations 1998, an employee within the meaning of s 83 of the Equality Act 2010 or a contract worker within the meaning of s 41 of the 2010 Act. The Employment Tribunal found that she was none of these and she appealed on the third finding. It was argued for Mrs Halawi that the complex web of relationships under which she operated was a disguise for what was in reality an employment relationship and that the definition of “worker” was to be given a wide scope in the context of anti-discrimination provisions. Langstaff J, sitting alone, rejected that argument and dismissed the appeal.

Nowhere in the judgment are specific examples of religious discrimination mentioned (which is why we didn’t notice the case when the EAT judgment was handed down); however, Langstaff J stated that:

“It is claimed in these proceedings that they did so for reasons that were discriminatory, and for the purposes of these proceedings that must be taken as so, although it is of course denied” [para 2].

And there, for the moment, the matter rests. Further details may emerge in the Court of Appeal.

2 thoughts on “Halawi v WDFG UK Ltd: Another religious discrimination case?

  1. Pingback: Religion and law round up – 29th June | Law & Religion UK

  2. Pingback: Religious discrimination in employment? – only if you’re employed: Halawi v WDFG UK Ltd | Law & Religion UK

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