Teaching assistant loses religious discrimination claim over Christmas Grinch award

A Muslim teaching assistant who claimed that being given the Christmas Grinch prize at a staff award ceremony amounted to religious discrimination has lost his employment tribunal case.

Salah Toughfar said he was "upset and distressed" to have been compared to the Dr Seuss character - despite not knowing anything about the mean-tempered creature until a colleague showed him an internet description.

The learning support assistant, who still works at The Grove School in north London, later complained about the audience laughing at him as he collected his trophy.

His claims of direct discrimination and harassment related to his religion were dismissed by a tribunal, which said the reception he received was no different to the other winners.

The Grinch is best known as the main character of the 1957 children's book How The Grinch Stole Christmas and was also portrayed by Jim Carrey in a 2000 film.

Mr Toughfar, a practising Muslim from Morocco, began working at the school in April 2020.

The Search Education Trust-run school is a specialist free school for students aged five to 19 with a primary diagnosis of autism, and is "diverse", with pupils and staff from all backgrounds, the Watford tribunal heard.

Mr Toughfar told the tribunal he got involved in school festive activities like putting up decorations in class as part of his role, but would not have a Christmas dinner.

The tribunal heard how in December 2022 assistant head teacher Daniel McKay Wood organised an online ballot for staff for a number of award categories, including The Rudolph, Santa's Little Helper and The Christmas Grinch.

Mr Toughfar received four votes for the Grinch award, while two other staff members each received three - and was presented with a miniature Oscar statue in a "light-hearted and jovial" ceremony.

Read more on Sky News:
Hugh Grant settles case against The Sun's publisher
'Historic event': UAE hit by 'heaviest rainfall in 75 years'

He later held a meeting with a senior member of staff in which he handed back his trophy, and claimed the award amounted to bullying and discrimination, the tribunal heard.

In an email to a school HR manager, he said: "I have never known a workplace, let alone a school, who would give a member of staff such an unkind and inappropriate trophy.

"I do not understand how such a decision to give someone a trophy depicting this character could be permitted. This is essentially promoting bullying in front of the whole school staff and this is an act of bullying and discrimination."

Judge Dilbaag Bansal said Mr Toughfar had "not put forward any evidence whatsoever that his being awarded the Christmas Grinch award was either because of or related to his religion".

"The tribunal was satisfied that the reason why he received the Christmas Grinch award was because he had received the highest number of votes at the point the voting had closed."