A teacher who worked at an orthodox Jewish nursery has won her case for religious and sexual discrimination and harassment.
Zelda de Groen was subjected to an ‘undoubtedly humiliating, degrading and offensive’ hour-long interview by her bosses, after complaints from parents who discovered she was living with her boyfriend. Allegedly, this was a breach of a fundamental tenet of Judaism. Ms de Greon’s bosses were lambasted by Employment Judge Andrew Clarke QC as behaving ‘like an overbearing mother and elder sister’.
During the meeting it was suggested by Ms de Groen’s bosses that a possible resolution would be to lie about her living situation, which caused further confusion to the Judge as lying is contrary to fundamental Jewish beliefs. The Judge commented the request to lie was “repugnant to generally accepted standards of morality to require someone to lie, especially about matters so concerned with their protected human rights.”
Ms de Greon’s bosses had thought the issue was dealt with after the initial meeting/interview but when she later asked for an apology over their treatment she was disciplined and sacked for bringing the nursery into disrepute. It was alleged she had acted in contravention of the nursery’s ethos and religious beliefs, damaging the nursery’s reputation and risking loss of income by parents withdrawing children. Essentially, she was sacked for co-habiting and because she would not say that she was no longer co-habiting.
Interestingly, the nursery’s bosses accepted they would not have behaved this way towards a male teacher. The tribunal agreed and held that had Ms de Greon been a man, she would not have been treated the same way. She was therefore successful in her claim for sexual discrimination. It was also held she had suffered religious discrimination.
The chair of the Accord Coalition for inclusive education, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, said the judgment shows “teachers can uphold a school’s ethos without being forced to abandon their right to a private life.” It addition, it highlights that schools “cannot let theology take precedence over education or legislation, and that their employment practice cannot breach laws against discrimination.”
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