Giselle Glaude v Quality Security Bodyguard Services Ltd

JurisdictionTrinidad & Tobago
JudgeMr. Rajmanlal Joseph,Ms. Leela Ramdeen,Mr. Harridath Maharaj
Judgment Date26 July 2016
Docket NumberE.O.T. No. 0003 of 2013
CourtEqual Opportunity Tribunal (Trinidad and Tobago)
Giselle Glaude
Quality Security Bodyguard Services Limited

His Honour Mr. Rajmanlal Joseph — Judge/Chairman

Her Honour Ms. Leela Ramdeen — Lay Assessor

His Honour Mr. Harridath Maharaj — Lay Assessor

E.O.T. No. 0003 of 2013


(Referred pursuant to S. 39(2) of the Equal Opportunity Act 2000 as amended by Act No. 5 of 2001)


Mr. Jason Nathu instructed by Ms. Barbara Lodge-Johnson appeared on behalf of the Complainant

Mr. A. Mohammed instructed by Ms Afreen Mohammed-Khan appeared on behalf of the Respondent


This case concerns the allegation of the Complainant that she was discriminated against by the Respondent when she was dismissed on March 26, 2012 as a security guard for failing to wear the “approved” uniform, that is, she had modified the said approved uniform by wearing a hijab shortly after becoming a Muslim on July 9, 2011.


It is contended by the Complainant that she was allegedly discriminated against by the Respondent on the basis of her religion (being Muslim), a requirement of which mandates that female members wear a covering of their head and bosom (commonly referred to as a Hijab).


However, it is the contention of the Respondent that the Complainant violated its uniform code, which said uniform was approved by the Ministry of National Security, and from which they did not wish to deviate. Consequently, the Complainant's refusal to remove her hijab was considered an act of gross misconduct and she was accordingly “charged” and placed before a Tribunal consisting of an executive officer of the Respondent and was subsequently terminated.


In support of their contention hereinabove the parties submitted the following witness statements:

  • (a) Witness Statement of the Complainant dated June 12, 2014 and filed on June 18, 2014.

  • (b) Witness Statement of Colin Lange, Operation Supervisor of the Respondent dated June 11, 2014 and filed on June 12, 2014.

  • (c) Witness Statement of Lennox Copeland, Chief Security Officer of the Respondent dated May 21, 2014 and filed on May 22, 2014.

  • (d) Witness Statement of Phyllis Andrews, Welfare Officer of the Respondent dated May 21, 2014 and filed May 22, 2014.

  • (e) Witness Statement of Samuel Sealey, Visiting Supervisor of the Respondent dated May 22, 2014 and filed on May 22, 2014.

  • (f) Witness Statement of Edwin Gittens, Human Resource Manager of the Respondent dated May 21, 2014 and filed on May 22, 2014.


Essentially, the Complainant's evidence via her Witness Statement was that she began her employment with the Respondent on July 27, 2007 and was assigned to work at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex at Mt. Hope. Her uniform consisted of a black short sleeve jumper with epaulettes, company patch on the left sleeve, a black leather belt and black leather boots. She wore this uniform whilst on duty.


On July 9, 2011 the Complainant converted to Islam and became a Muslim and in October of that year began wearing the Hijab which covered her head and chest area but with her face exposed. The Complainant asserted that sometime in August 2011 she had a conversation with Mr. Colin Lange, the Respondent's Operations Supervisor, asking whether it would be permissible for her to wear the hijab whilst on duty. He responded that “you are free to wear any garment in accordance with your religious beliefs”. And it was after this conversation that she began wearing the Hijab with her uniform.


The Complainant further maintained that during the period October 13, 2011 to January 2012 neither Mr. Lange, the Respondent, nor any other employee or agent of the Respondent made any complaint to her about wearing the Hijab.


Further, the Complainant was required to attend a meeting with Mr. Lange on February 27, 2012 and was instructed to write a letter to the Human Resource Department concerning her religion and her need to wear the Hijab. The Complainant wrote the said letter informing the Respondent of the reasons for wearing the Hijab. The Respondent responded by letter of March 5, 2012 indicating that if she continued to wear the Hijab on duty — which conflicted with its uniform code — then she would have to make other arrangements as regards her employment. Following this letter, the Complainant sought advice from her Imam, and on March 9, 2012 he wrote a letter to the Respondent indicating that the Complainant was an active and functioning member of their community and that it is a requirement that believing women cover their heads and breast.


Subsequent to these events, matters went downhill for the Complainant in that on March 15, 2012 she was served a “Notice of Intended Action” for Gross Misconduct, that is, her refusal to desist from wearing the Hijab whilst on duty. On March 22, 2012 the Complainant attended a disciplinary hearing. After the hearing she was informed that she was found guilty of the charge and was terminated. The formal termination letter of March 26, 2012 was received by the Complainant on even date and two (2) days after she returned all uniform items issued to her.


This witness was extensively cross-examined by counsel for the Respondent but the essential evidence of the Complainant was not shaken. Under cross-examination one was impressed with her reaffirmation in her faith and her insistence that she would not remove the Hijab, even though she faced imminent dismissal. Consequently, the Tribunal found that this witness was generally a credible witness.


Of the five (5) Witness Statements filed on behalf of the Respondent, only three (3) of those witnesses were called to be cross-examined. Ms. Phyllis Andrews was excused from being called by the Tribunal on account of the fact that counsel for the Complainant indicated to the Tribunal that he had no questions for this witness.


Mr. Samuel Sealey on the other hand was a no show even though the matter was adjourned to the following day to allow for his attendance; he did not turn up to be cross-examined.


The essence of the evidence of Lennox Copeland, Chief Security Officer of the Respondent, is that he received information that the Complainant was wearing a Hijab whilst in uniform on duty at the North Central Regional Health Authority, Mt. Hope and arrangements were made to have her brought to his office. He did not indicate how or from whom be received such information.


On Monday March 5, 2012 the Complainant reported to his office in canine uniform with a black Hijab on her head. He indicated that the company respected her religious belief but that it was unacceptable to management for her to wear the Hijab with her uniform. He further indicated to the Complainant that if she could not conform to the company's dress code then she will have to make alternative arrangements for her employment. According to this witness, he attended a Tribunal hearing on Thursday 22 nd March, 2012 wherein the Complainant was charged for gross misconduct, gave his evidence and at the end of the Tribunal hearing she was terminated.


On cross-examination by counsel for the Complainant, this witness could not logically explain if there was a difference between the phrase “to find alternative employment arrangements”, which was interpreted by the Complainant that she would be fired when she inquired of him whether that was so, he told her “No”. That apart, this witness under cross-examination did iot deviate from his Witness Statement.


Essentially, the evidence of Mr. Edwin Gittens, Human Resource Manager of the Respondent, was that he first interacted with the Complainant in August 2007 when she was employed as a Security Officer with the Respondent and that at no time during her employment did she indicate to the Human Resource Department that she had a certain religious affiliation. This only came to the Respondent's attention in March, 2012 when she was challenged by Mr. Lange regarding the wearing of the Hijab. This witness also indicted that he was aware of the Disciplinary Tribunal hearing and the Complainant's termination.


What was interesting in the cross-examination of this witness was his admission that the Respondent had accommodated requests by Seventh-day Adventist Security Officers to have their Sabbath Day free of any work duties, but was not prepared in any way to make a similar accommodation to the Complainant. This apart, the witness did not deviate significantly from his Witness Statement. In addition, he could not say if the Human Resource Department received any written notification from any of its employees of a change in their religious status.


The evidence of Colin Lange, Operations Supervisor of the Respondent was that he knew the Complainant who was employed as a Security Officer, and up until her dismissal she was posted at the North Central Regional Health Authority, Mt. Hope as a Canine Officer. He indicated that he was aware that she was dismissed for wearing a Hijab whilst on duty in breach of the Company's uniform policy. He also indicated that he had cause to visit the location and the Complainant who was on duty in uniform (minus Hijab) told him that she had embraced Islam and wanted to know whether it would be a problem to wear the Hijab with her uniform whilst on duty. He instructed her that he did not have the authority to allow that, and she should seek clarification from the Human Resource Department. He also stated that at no time did he have any conversation with the Complainant in the presence of the Welfare Officer, Ms. Phyllis Andrews.


Under cross-examination this witness appeared to suggest that there was a difference between the statement by the Complainant — “Whether it would be a problem to wear the Hijab with her uniform whilst on duty”, which he interpreted as being directed at him rather than the Respondent.


Mr. Samuel Sealey,...

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