Swastikas, employment and “religious” symbols: Horvarth

Istvan Horvarth started working at the Lidl store in Telford Hadley, Shropshire, in 2013. A colleague complained that Horvarth showed him his ‘swastika’ tattoo and in April 2019 Horvarth was sacked. In Mr I Horvarth v Lidl Great Britain Ltd [2021] ET/ 1307164/2019, he claimed unfair dismissal and discrimination based on race and/or religion or belief. He also claimed that he had been subjected to a number of incidents of harassment related to his race from approximately 2016 onwards, immediately following the Brexit referendum [3]. Following two case management hearings before Employment Judge Flood, he withdrew his claims of discrimination based on religion and/or belief and they were dismissed in a judgment dated 22 May 2020 [2].

Horvarth claimed, inter alia, that the swastika was a Buddhist religious symbol, but his claim was rejected:

“… It was the claimant’s case that his tattoo was not of an offensive Nazi swastika, but a Buddhist swastika peace symbol. In our view, it was perfectly clear that the tattoo the claimant has accords most closely with the form of tattoo shown on the respondent’s document as associated with Nazism. It is orientated clockwise and tilted at a 45-degree angle. The one identified on the respondent’s document as a Buddhist symbol is orientated anti-clockwise and is vertical, not tilted. Although there are other clockwise orientated ‘non- Nazi’ symbols identified in that document, those appear much more ornate in design and none of them are tilted at a 45-degree angle [78].

The claimant’s tattoo has a background which he describes as flowers but which the respondent said looked like barbed wire. We cannot say which it is, but we find that it is possible to see the background as barbed wire” [79].

Nevertheless, the Employment Tribunal found ­– in part ­– in his favour. Lidl’s belief that he had been guilty of gross misconduct “was not based on an adequate investigation and the decision to dismiss him after 6 years’ service on the basis of this investigation was outside the band of reasonable responses of a reasonable employer” [170]. In so doing, however,  the ET concluded that it was “just and equitable” to reduce the amount of any compensatory award because Horvarth had contributed to some extent to his own dismissal [176]. The claims of harassment and direct race discrimination failed.

Cite this article as: Frank Cranmer, "Swastikas, employment and “religious” symbols: Horvarth" in Law & Religion UK, 30 April 2021, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2021/04/30/swastikas-employment-and-religious-symbols-horvarth/

2 thoughts on “Swastikas, employment and “religious” symbols: Horvarth

  1. We learn in Paragraph 78 that C had the tattoo before he started the job. We are not told on what part of his body it was. Although I have no tattoos and don’t want any, I definitely wouldn’t want one that featured a Nazi-type swastika. However, it is hard not to feel sympathy with somebody who was hired with a tattoo, who was fired because somebody saw it, during a conversation about tattoos.

    The tattoo is only a small part of the overall picture though, and religion barely features at all.

    I have been doing most of my food shopping at Lidl for the past 3 years. My wife (who is Romanian) complained about this again today. She doesn’t know about this case. I shall reconsider my loyalty in the light of this as well as her objections.

    • “religion barely features at all”. Indeed: had it not been for the claim that the swastika was a Buddhist symbol and the ET’s careful distinction between the Buddhist/Hindu version and the Nazi one, I wouldn’t have bothered to note it at all except, perhaps, briefly in the Sunday roundup.

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