A prominent British banker has taken his ex-employer – a Kuwaiti-owned bank – to the Employment Tribunal after he claimed that he was made redundant because of religious discrimination.
Mr James Bagshawe, 53, was a key figure in the creation of his ex-employer, the Gatehouse Bank, in 2007. Until he was made redundant in August 2011 he was the Chief Operating Officer at the bank and drew a salary equivalent to £185,000 a year. He has subsequently taken his ex-employer to the Employment Tribunal and issued claims for race discrimination and religious discrimination as well as a claim for unfair dismissal.
Mr Bagshawe claims that his position was not actually redundant and that his redundancy was a result of the fact that he was not Muslim. He claims that should he have been a Muslim and/or not of British nationality he would have retained his job. He further claims that his redundancy was prompted by concerns that he raised over a proposed investment from the Kuwaiti Investment Agency.
At the Employment Tribunal in London Mr Bagshawe claimed that Mr Dhunno, a relatively inexperienced junior employee, effectively now undertook Mr Bagshawe’s previous duties. He claims that Mr Dhunno’s appointment was engineered by Mr Fahed Boodai, chairman at the bank, and that his removal from the role was because he was not Muslim or of a particular nationality or ethnicity. He has also claimed that his decision to raise concerns to the Financial Services Authority over the Kuwaiti Investment Agency’s proposed £100 million investment materially contributed to his dismissal and is therefore also claiming that he was automatically unfairly dismissed.
Mr Bagshawe told the Tribunal that he did “not make the allegation of discrimination lightly” but that “the fact remains that Mr Boodai, a Muslim, chose to involve Mr Dhunno, another Muslim, in the KIA investment, to the exclusion of his UK-based executive team, none of whom are Muslim”. He claims that his 25 years’ experience in the banking industry renders unexplainable the fact that Mr Dhunno was not also made redundant.
The Gatehouse Bank – which operates under Sharia law – did not make a profit in the four years whilst Mr Bagshawe was Chief Operating Officer, despite the £1 million salary and bonuses that he drew over the period. It claims that the FSA did not recognise Mr Bagshawe’s concerns as “whistleblowing” and that Mr Bagshawe agreed the investment at a board meeting. Further, the bank states that the redundancy was carried out procedurally and substantively fairly and that non-Muslims evaluated the need for redundancy at every stage. A spokesman for the bank said “Mr Bagshawe was made redundant by the CEO, a Christian. His appeal was heard by a non-executive director, also a Christian. His redundancy was supported by the Board – equally comprised of Christians and Muslims”. The spokesman went on to deny any allegation of discrimination, stated that the redundancy was fair and that any claim relating to unfair dismissal or whistleblowing was “strongly contested”.