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Indian Lecturer Wins Racial Discrimination Case Against British University

The University of Portsmouth had appointed a white lecturer with zero experience in Dr Kajal Sharma's place.

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The University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom was found to have racially discriminated against an Indian lecturer after it failed to reappoint her, while appointing a white candidate with zero experience in her place. 

Who is the lecturer?: Dr Kajal Sharma is an Indian lecturer at the University of Portsmouth.

She was appointed to a five-year fixed term secondment as the Associate Head for Organizational Studies and Human Resource Management starting in January 2016, and had the option to reapply for the post

What is the incident?: Sharma was one of only two senior lectures at the university who were not reappointed after their contract came to an end. On the other hand, 11 out of 12 of white lecturers were successfully reappointed.

After being overlooked for the position, Sharma complained under the university’s grievance procedure in November 2020. She claimed that she had been discriminated against under the UK's Equality Act of 2010.

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What was the tribunal's ruling?: An employment tribunal ruled that Dr Sharma was the victim of subconscious discrimination and said that the selection process was “tainted by race discrimination”.

The tribunal ruled in Sharma’s favor and the judgement found that Rees had treated her “in a way that we considered was different to the way he would have treated others, in areas such as support over her father’s death, and her child’s illness.”

“We conclude that his involvement in the recruitment process and his subconscious bias means that the failure to recruit the claimant was an act of race discrimination,” the employment tribunal said. 

However, the compensation related to the findings of the tribunal are still to be finalised. 

The testimony: Dr Sharma told the tribunal that she had a “difficult” relationship with Dr Gary Rees, her manager, and had also spoken out against the way she was treated on multiple occasions. 

In one case, she said that Rees asked her to do university work in the immediate aftermath of the death of her father, and moreover failed to adequately support her while she was taking care of her severely ill son. 

Evidence of discrimination?: The employment tribunal was also informed that Rees actively encouraged a fellow white colleague to pursue an additional qualification, but when Sharma suggested that she might do the same, he failed to support her. 

Lastly, when her contract was almost up for renewal, she was given no notice of the fact that an advertisement was posted for her job!

When Sharma reapplied for the post, making it to the final shortlist of two, a panel which included Rees as well gave the post to a rival candidate with Rees’ backing. 

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Did the University of Portsmouth speak out?: A spokesperson from the university said

“There are no excuses for race discrimination at the University of Portsmouth.The university recognises the strength of the ruling by the employment tribunal in this case and expects every member of our community to uphold the university’s values, without exception.”

“The university is examining the ruling carefully and cannot comment further while the legal case continues,” they added. 

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