A family-run business is fighting for survival against a court ruling which said it had discriminated against a modern-day witch.
The Londis shop in Shenley Road, Hemel Hempstead, owned by Tarlock Singh, 36, and managed by his brother Gurnam, 26, has been challenged in an employment tribunal by former worker Karen Holland.
Wiccan witch Ms Holland, 45, claimed more than £15,000 in compensation against the siblings, who she said discriminated against her because of her gender and pagan religion, and sacked her unfairly for attending a Halloween celebration last year.
According to the court ruling, Ms Holland said that “there was a look of disgust” from her employers when she mentioned her Wiccan religion, adding: “It was scary.”
Ms Holland, who at the time of the hearing in July was claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, also told the tribunal her employers’ tone was consistent with shocked surprise which made her feel as though something was wrong with her.
Gurnam Singh, who says firing Ms Holland had nothing to do with her gender or religion, said: “We had to represent ourselves. It was our first time in court, and neither of us is confident in English. We weren’t prepared at all, so the decision was bound to be negative against us.”
The businessmen have since appealed against the Watford Employment Tribunal’s decision. Mr Singh said: “How can we pay her £15,000 when we can’t afford legal help?
“We are going to have to take out a loan for a lawyer, it is either that or the close the business. It is already hard when you are down the road from Sainsbury’s – it has been very hard for us.
“This might be a case of us closing, but that is the last thing we want to do.”
The brothers say they now have signed letters from other employees stating they have never been discriminated against and that they view their employers as fair.
The initial court ruling described Ms Holland’s sacking as ‘indefensible’ and found in favour of her claims of discrimination on the grounds of gender and religion. The Singh brothers are now awaiting a new court date to challenge the decision.