Royal Mail parcel sorters had to seek permission to use the toilet – and their visits were timed, an employee has claimed.
Details of a “bullying” regime were outlined by a staff member who told an employment tribunal on Tuesday that she was also banned from attending prayers.
Somali-born Shamin Husen, 30, claimed that her “bullying boss” made her life hell at the Royal Mail depot in Langley, Berks, which sorts parcels coming into the UK from Heathrow airport.
She told the tribunal that she was bullied and singled out by manager Talib Hussain.
In her witness statement, she said: “Talib was horrible.
“He bullied me, harassed me, intimidated me and victimised me most of the time.”
Mrs Husen claimed she was made to feel like she could not go to the toilet because her manager would time how long she was gone and he allegedly stopped her from attending prayers when other Muslims were not challenged.
The tribunal heard that she first encountered problems with her manager in December 2013, when he stopped her from going to the toilet.
Representing Royal Mail, Bridget Tokhai said: “You claim Mr Hussain stopped you when you went to the toilet and monitored how long you were in the toilet.
“You say this was all part of him maintaining a watch over you.
“On what basis, apart from the fact that you are a woman and a Muslim, were you made to feel discriminated against?”
Mrs from Hounslow, replied: “Because he would not stop men visiting the toilet.”
The tribunal heard that Mr Hussain took on the role of manager in October 2013, when he asked everyone to tell him when they were leaving the work area, whether it was for a smoking break, a comfort break or to attend prayers.
It is alleged he challenged Mrs Husen when she returned from a toilet break because he believed she had been gone for around 20 minutes.
Ms Tokhai said: “Mr Hussain says in his statement he would make a mental note if someone was absent from the floor.
“That is not the same as keeping a watch over someone excessively, is it?
“He is entitled to ask the question if he believed you were away for too long. He didn’t stop you from going to the toilet.”
Mrs Husen replied: “He did.”
The tribunal heard Mrs Husen had joined Royal Mail in 2007 and worked as a manual sorter at the Heathrow Worldwide Distribution Centre in Langley, Berks.
She claims she was subjected to sexual and religious discrimination by Mr Hussain and the Royal Mail group.
Ms Tokhai said: “What the evidence suggests is that Mr Hussain did not single you out.
“You were all expected to tell him when you left the floor.”
One month later, in January 2014, Mr Hussain allegedly stopped Mrs Husen on her way to prayers.
Ms Tokhai said: “You say you were not able to perform prayers even though other Muslims were going without asking permission.
“What else, apart from the fact you are a woman and a Muslim, made you feel discriminated against?’
Mrs Husen replied: “I was the only Somali, the only Muslim, in that area.”
Ms Tokhai said: “Mr Husen says the reason he challenged you is because you failed to tell him where you were going.”
Mrs Husen replied: “For that particular prayer time, yes.’
Ms Tokhai said: “As you left the floor without his permission, was that not a reason for him to challenge you?”
Mrs Husen replied: “Yes, but he did not ask others and others did not ask permission.”
Ms Tokhai said Mr Hussain had not singled her out based on her sex or religion.
When pushed on whether this was correct, Mrs Husen replied: “Yes.”
The tribunal also heard Mr Hussain allegedly gave Mrs Husen “unreasonable” targets.
However, Ms Tokhai said: “You were not the only one who was challenged for your performance.
“Others were challenged and they were not Muslim employees.”
Mrs Husen replied: “Yes.”
In March 2014, Mr Hussain allegedly isolated Mrs Husen from her colleagues by moving her to a different department.
The tribunal heard it was common practice for staff to be moved around and Ms Tokhai said: “He did not move you to isolate you, he moved you because an extra pair of hands was needed.
“Your sex and religion has nothing to do with it.”
Mrs Husen replied: “It has.”
Judge Andrew Gumbiti-Zimuto said: “You say you were moved several times because of your sex and your religion.
“Do you accept when you were moved there was a legitimate need for you or someone else to be moved at that time?”
Mrs Husen replied: “No. There was a procedure which was not being followed.”
A colleague of Mrs Husen broke down in tears on Tuesday when she recounted what her friend had gone through.
Bing Wang became emotional as she relived the moment she was also stopped by manager Talib Hussain while returning from the toilet.
She told the hearing: “He bullied me too.
“When he saw I was with Shamin, he stopped me too.
“All of it made me so stressed I asked to be moved to another area.”
Ms Wang added: “Except for Shamin, he would never ask other people.
“He wouldn’t stop other people.”
Ms Wang told the tribunal she was returning from a toilet break with Mrs Husen in November 2013 when Mr Hussain stopped both of them and challenged them about how long they had taken.
Ms Tokhai said: “On the face of it, you had your own disagreements with Mr Hussain, so you cannot give an objective view can you?”
Through tears, Ms Wang replied: “I can. What he did was wrong.”
Earlier, the tribunal heard from another employee, Rakmita Talwar, who said: “Shamin said she did not want to go to the toilet because she did not want to be conduct coded.
“She was scared of Talib.
“He always stopped her.
“I cried about it.
“I felt stressed for what she was going through.
“It made me feel like, why is this happening?”
Ms Tokhai said: “You said Mr Hussain was a bully , so how can you give an unbiased opinion?”
Ms Talwar replied: “It is not biased.
“I felt scared he might start to do it to me as well.”
Another colleague, Eric Darpoh, who worked in the dispatch area, told the tribunal he saw the manager stop Mrs Husen from going to prayer.
He said: “It seemed like he picked on her.
“I spoke to him and said you can’t single out certain people but he carried on.”
Ms Tokhai said: “You say he used to glare at you.
“So he watched and monitored you too?”
Mr Darpoh replied: “He wanted to target us.”
The tribunal heard Mr Hussain no longer worked at Royal Mail.
Michael Duodo, a colleague and union representative at Royal Mail since 2005, said: “I was informed the manager had stopped Shamin Husen from going to the toilet.
“I raised the issue with him and he admitted it.
“He was of the view that it was right for a manager to stop people from going to the toilet or to prayers, so I had to explain to him that at Royal Mail, we don’t do that.”
Ms Tokhai said: “Did you witness Mr Hussain stopping Mrs Husen from going to prayers or to the toilet?”
Source: tribunal news