A married couple, Donna and Yassin Tunkara, claim they were victimised at work due to their religious beliefs. They claim that bosses at the Morrisons warehouse in Stockton-on-Tees refused to grant them holidays during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
A tribunal at Teesside Magistrates’ Court heard evidence from Mrs Tunkara, who says her holiday request for the last 10 days of fasting during Ramadan was turned down unfairly.
The stress of working night shifts had apparently caused her to suffer a breakdown and be admitted to hospital. Mrs Tunkara stated: “It was very difficult to deal with. We asked for the holidays because it was too difficult to work night shifts while fasting.”
However solicitor Philip Crowe, representing Morrisons, challenged Mrs Tunkara and said that she had not got the holidays she asked for because had not put in their holiday requests by the end of February – the company deadline for summer requests.
He said: “You have not got exactly what you wanted and acted like a spoiled brat, and you have taken the easy way out to play the discrimination and race card, haven’t you? It is unfair.”
Mrs Tunkara went on to claim that she had been admitted to hospital after working a shift on August 11, 2012, and had not even recognised her husband in the immediate aftermath.
She stated that she had asked for time off for her and her husband between August 9 and August 22 at the beginning of March, as soon as she received a planner from her mosque telling her when Ramadan was to begin.
She told the tribunal that she submitted the request to her line manager Peter Woodward while he was in a meeting with another person. Mr Woodward then told Mr and Mrs Tunkara that he had discussed Ramadan with the other person and had decided he would not grant the request.
But Morrison’s solicitor denied this incident ever took place, and asked why Mrs Tunkara had only mentioned it in her latest witness statement. He also asked her why, after working during the first weeks of Ramadan in July and August, did she only suffer problems whilst working shifts during August 9 and August 22, which were the dates she had asked for off.
Mrs Tunkara said she had come to a compromise to work shorter, seven-hour shifts, and split her 30-minute breaks in two but the cumulative stress of working while fasting had led to her breakdown.
She also said she and Mr Tunkara had been denied informal 15 minute breaks other staff enjoyed on night shifts, and that her request for holidays had been treated differently to requests from other members of staff.