A senior barrister who unsuccessfully sued his employer for harassment after a colleague told him to stop breaking wind has won £135,000 in compensation for a string of other claims.
Tarique Mohammed, who worked at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), successfully argued that he was treated unfairly by not being allowed to work from home two days a week, or leave work at 4pm to help manage his heart condition.
Mr Mohammed had brought a series of disability-related claims against the CPS, claiming bosses and colleagues had harassed and bullied him while treating him unfairly after he suffered a heart attack in 2014.
An employment tribunal ultimately found the CPS guilty of disability discrimination and of failing to make reasonable adjustments for the claimant’s health condition.
Several other complaints were thrown out, however, including that of harassment, levelled against a colleague who asked Mr Mohammed to stop breaking wind in the small office they shared.
Pictured: The Crown Prosecution Service office in Millmead, Guildford
Tarique Mohammed said he was unable to help his flatulence because it was caused by medication he was taking for a heart condition, an employment tribunal in Reading heard. Pictured: Reading Tribunal Hearing Centre
Mr Mohammed told a previous hearing how he couldn’t help his flatulence because it was caused by medication he was taking after his heart attack.
Asking him to stop farting was not only embarrassing, it violated his dignity, the prosecutor argued.
However the tribunal found it was a reasonable request of his colleague to make – given the small size of the office they shared and the repetitive nature of the flatulence.
He also accused co-workers and bosses of discriminating against him by deliberately throwing his water bottles away when he left them on a shared desk, asking him to work one day a week 60 miles away and failing to pay for his barrister’s practising certificate while he was on sick leave.
These claims – along with the flatulence complaint – were thrown out by the tribunal.
However the barrister has now been awarded £135,862 for the other successful claims against the CPS.
The CPS accepted it had treated him unfairly by not allowing him to work from home two days a week, leave work at 4pm to help him manage his condition and by removing him from court duties.
The hearing in Reading, Berkshire, was told married Mr Mohammed began work in the Thames Valley area as a senior prosecutor in 2004.
In 2014 he suffered a heart attack which left him having to take daily medication, the side effects of which meant he had to remain at home for several hours after taking it.
The panel was told Mr Mohammed returned to work the following year but after collapsing at home with angina he moved to an office – rather than court – based role in Guildford, Surrey.
The tribunal heard that soon afterwards – in July 2015 – he made a complaint after senior prosecutor Nick Wilson threw away up to five of Mr Mohammed’s used water bottles which he had left on a shared desk.
Mr Wilson said he thought they were rubbish but Mr Mohammed claimed he needed to drink a lot because of his illness, accusing colleagues of ‘ganging up’ on him.
The following year the panel heard he started sharing a small office with another prosecutor, Paul McGorry.
‘After two or three days of [Mr Mohammed] working in the room, Mr McGorry noticed that [he] had flatulence,’ the tribunal was told. ‘He did not know why.
‘Mr McGorry was aware the claimant had had a heart attack but he was not aware of what medication the claimant was taking or that flatulence was a side effect of the medication.
‘There were repeated incidents of flatulence in the quiet room. On one occasion Mr McGorry asked, ”Do you have to do that Tarique?”
‘[Mr Mohammed] said it was due to his medication. Mr McGorry asked if he could step outside to do it. [Mr Mohammed] said that he could not.
The CPS accepted it had treated him unfairly by not allowing him to work from home two days a week, leave work at 4pm to help him manage his condition and by removing him from court duties
‘The conversation ended there. Neither Mr McGorry or Mr Mohammed mentioned the matter again.
‘Mr Mohammed found the short discussion embarrassing but was not obviously upset and did not make any complaint about the incident.’
The tribunal heard that in the autumn of 2015 Mr Mohammed was cleared to go back to working at court.
At the same time he asked bosses for permission to work from home two days a week and to finish at 4pm on court days, a request that was denied by boss Anne Phillips.
In February 2016 he was moved to another team that meant he did not have to attend court. However, he was asked to work one day a week in Brighton, East Sussex – more than one hour’s drive from Guildford.
In March 2016 – following her decision to refuse his request – he launched a grievance against Ms Phillips and other colleagues. The tribunal heard that the following month he went on sick leave.
The grievance was finally completed in January 2018 and concluded the CPS should have made the allowances Mr Mohammed had asked for.
He returned to work in September 2018 but had his employment terminated in April 2020.
The tribunal threw out Mr Mohammed’s claims of disability-related harassment and victimisation.
Employment Judge Emma Hawksworth said: ‘Many of the incidents about which (he) complains were unrelated to his disability… or were caused or aggravated by (him) overreacting.’
Of the flatulence incident, Judge Hawksworth added: ‘Mr McGorry’s questions to Mr Mohammed were not asked with the purpose of violating his dignity or creating such an environment.
‘It was not an unreasonable question to ask, when there had been repeated incidents of flatulence in a small office.
‘There was no indication in the way the questions were asked to suggest Mr McGorry was aware that Mr Mohammed’s flatulence was related to disability.’
The tribunal found the CPS was guilty of disability discrimination and failing to make reasonable adjustments for refusing his requests, ignoring recommendations from occupational health advisors and removing him from court duties.
At the latest hearing to determine his compensation, it was heard Mr Mohammed felt ‘unsupported and vulnerable, angry and upset’.
Mr Mohammed urged the tribunal to make a recommendation to the CPS that they ‘take steps to prohibit the spread of gossip and rumour about him’, however the tribunal refused.
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