LONDON: A man has successfully sued his employer for religious harassment after he was given a box of chocolates as a raffle prize instead of an expensive bottle of Cognac.
Zakaria Kioua, who does not drink alcohol as a practicing Muslim, was told by managers at the five-star Lainston House hotel in the south of England that they did not wish to offend him by giving him the bottle of alcohol, saying it would have been like offering nuts to a person with a nut allergy.
But Kioua, 37, said his faith was “not an illness” and he felt humiliated and targeted because of his religious beliefs.
The Cognac was a raffle prize at a staff party held in January 2017. But Kioua, who trained as a vet in Algeria before moving to the UK and worked as a linen porter at the hotel, was given “cheap” chocolates instead after one of his colleagues said he did not drink alcohol, British media reported.
After resigning from his position, Kioua launched claims against the hotel in April 2019. An employment tribunal in Southampton handed down its judgement this week, ruling that the claim of harassment linked to religion or beliefs was a legitimate one.
“A nut allergy is an illness, a life-threatening illness. It is not an acceptable point of comparison. It minimizes the importance of Mr. Kioua’s beliefs and practices,” the tribunal said.
“The point is not that (the swap) was well-intentioned. The point is that it should not have been said, just as the decision should not have been made to change Mr. Kioua’s prize,” it added.
“Both are on the grounds of his religion and neither should have happened; both are offensive and caused him distress.”
Kioua was awarded £2,000 ($2,545) to be paid by Lainston House for “injury to feelings” plus interest, The Times newspaper reported.