An employment tribunal has ruled that a solicitor was fired by an immigration advice business due to her race. With immigration lawyers often representing some of the most marginalised people in society, it might seem surprising to see a case involving direct race discrimination against an immigration solicitor emerge. However, this is what happened to Indian national, Mayuri Manjula, when she was dismissed.


Miss Manjula subsequently claimed that she was a victim of direct discrimination. This was based on her belief that a British employee would not have been treated the same way when handing in their notice.


So why did the employment tribunal find that Ms Manjula was fired due to her race? Let’s take a look at the background and facts of the case in more detail.



Miss M Manjula v Immigration and Nationality Services Ltd and IANS Solicitors Ltd


Mayuri Manjula originally qualified as a solicitor in India before moving to the UK. Initially, she worked as a Business Development Manager for her employer, Immigration and Nationality Services Limited, owned by Ian Refugio. Prior to this, she self-funded her own qualification and admission as a solicitor in England. After being employed by the law firm IANS Solicitors Limited, also owned by Mr Refugio, her firm obtained a sponsor license which extended her visa.


Manjula had handed in her notice after being offered a role at KPMG, one of the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms. She was willing to work more than four weeks of her notice but was told to leave immediately by her employer, who cited a “breakdown in trust and confidence” for this decision.


During a meeting notifying the owner, Ian Refugio, that she would be resigning to work for another employer, Manjula claimed that Refugio responded angrily and banged on the table. She claimed that her employer said: You plan to leave the employment? I extended your visa and now you plan to leave? What about the visa costs? You influenced me to pay for your visa and now you say you want to leave! I am disappointed that I trusted you!”


After being told that she must leave immediately, she repeatedly stated that she was required to give her four weeks of notice and expected to receive four weeks of payment in lieu of notice. However, she was dismissed by her employer.


What claims did Miss Manjula bring forward?


Manjula subsequently brought a number of claims as a litigant in person including the following:


  • Unfair dismissal
  • Wrongful dismissal
  • Unauthorised deductions from wages
  • Direct race discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 Section 13
  • Failure to Provide a Statement of Particulars
  • Indirect Race Discrimination


When it came to the Claimant’s claim for direct race discrimination under the Equality Act 2010, the tribunal had to decide whether the Respondents treated the Claimant less favourably on the grounds of race. In particular, “as a non-British national migrant worker compared to British-national workers”. The claimant provided three comparators for the direct race discrimination claim. All three were non-migrant British National workers that had left the company.


The period the tribunal focused on was after 9th March 2022 when Manjula notified her employer that she was resigning. It would also focus on the alleged dismissal of the Claimant later that day, a dismissal which was denied by the Respondents.


Let’s take a look at what the tribunal decided on each of these claims.




Woman judge hand holding gavel to bang on sounding block in the court room.


All claims other than the one for indirect race discrimination contrary to the Equality Act 2010 succeeded. The indirect race discrimination claimed failed due to being presented out of time.


The judge found that Mr Refugio had a habit of dismissing migrant employees without paying them their notices monies and/or wages owed. At the time of the hearing, which took place a year and a half after the claimant was dismissed from her employment, Ms Manjula had still not received the money she was owed. The money owed by her employer, IANS Group, totalled £7,930.29 overall.


When comparing the situation of Ms Manjula with that of her non-migrant comparators, it was found that the others had not been treated the same way. The closest comparator, Maryam Sufi, was also a Solicitor and was not treated in the same aggressive manner as the Claimant was when she resigned.


The tribunal found that the motivation for Mr Refugio becoming angry was that she had resigned after her employer had helped her remain in the UK over three years of employment. The behaviour by Mr Refugio in becoming angry and dismissing her may have been unconscious, but according to the tribunal it was motivated by race. It was therefore also discriminatory on the grounds of race.


Direct race discrimination


Following the summary of evidence which was gathered by the tribunal, it was found by the tribunal that this inferred that direct race discrimination of the Claimant had taken place.  The burden of proof shifted to the Mr Refugio, who had to provide evidence that “amounted to a non-discriminatory reason for the treatment of the Claimant” on 9th March 2022.


As the respondent failed to prove a non-discriminatory reason, the tribunal decided that the aggressive behaviour directed towards Ms Manjula that day, as well as her summary dismissal on that date amounted to direct race discrimination.


Unfair dismissal


Termination of Employment


Regarding the claim for unfair dismissal, the claimant had been continuously employed by the respondent for more than two years. Employees have the right to challenge a dismissal if they have been continuously employed by their employer for more than two years as per section 95 the Employment Rights Act 1996.


The Tribunal found that following Ms Manjula’s resignation, the Respondent brought forward her date of termination, amounting to her summary dismissal. If an employer decides to summarily dismiss an employee during their period of notice, the employee will be considered to have been dismissed by their employer. Was this an example of an unfair dismissal?


Despite the respondents giving the reason for dismissal as misconduct, i.e. Manjula finding alternative employment, this was found not to have been a sufficient reason for the summary dismissal of the Claimant. The claim for wrongful and unfair dismissal therefore succeeded. The reason for this is that the Claimant was entitled to a four week notice period which she was not giving the opportunity to serve.


Our thoughts


This is a case which highlights the nuanced nature of discrimination law under the Equality Act 2010. While the dismissal could be regarded as more cut and dry in terms of being unfair and wrongful, on the face of it, one might not initially realise that the dismissal of the claimant was also an example of direct race discrimination. Indeed, Ms Manjula herself did not initially claim direct race discrimination.


However, the pattern of behaviour by the respondent in behaving differently towards non-migrant British workers who resigned, as well as his outburst and dismissal of the claimant following her resignation, were found to be an example of direct race discrimination. As discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 can be both conscious and unconscious, the tribunal held that the respondent’s reaction could be put down to direct race discrimination of an unconscious nature.


It is vital that employers have cle anti-discrimination policies which are kept up to date and which staff are informed of. The Equality Act (2010) makes it a requirement for employers to take steps to prevent discrimination. This helps to create a safe and inclusive workplace for staff.


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