London (Sep. 8)
Britain’s second biggest real estate company has been found guilty of dismissing its only senior Jewish employe while trying to obtain a big loan from Kuwait.
A three-member industrial tribunal upheld the complaint of 44-year-old Anthony Simmons that he had been the victim of racial discrimination when he was fired as assistant company secretary by MEPC a year ago.
The case is expected to cause a sensation in Britain’s real estate world in which Jewish-owned companies are prominently represented. It has also focussed attention on the lengths to which some British businesses might be prepared to go for Arab financial backing.
MEPC, whose directors include Angus Ogilvy, a cousin of the Queen, and Lord Boardman, honorary treasurer of the Conservative Party, had hired Simmons, a lawyer, as its assistant company secretary early in 1973 and had told him he might eventually become company secretary.
He was dismissed in September 1980 when the company was seeking to raise cash for a Euro-dollar issue from the Kuwait International Investment Company. MEPC had told Simmons he was being dismissed because he had become superflous and that he was no longer regarded as qualified for promotion.
However, two of the three members of the industrial tribunal rejected this explanation and concluded that the real motive was connected with his being Jewish. Simmons, who had not been asked about his religion on joining MEPC, is a member of a Reform synagogue and has never visited Israel.
FIRST PROVEN CASE OF DISCRIMINATION
Although this is not the first case in which British firms are suspected of having discriminated against Jewish employes while stepping up their contracts with the Arab world, it is believed to be the first in which such an act of discrimination has been proved in court.
There was, however, no proof that MEPC’s Arab business partners had requested Simmons’ dismissal and the tribunal passed no judgement on whether MEPC had come under such pressure or had fired him voluntarily.
It remains to be seen whether the court will award Simmons damages or costs. On dismissing him, MEPC gave him severance pay, a year’s salary, a company car and other benefits. His legal costs so far are calculated at between 5,000 and 10,000 Pounds Sterling. He has not found an alternative full time job and has had to move into a smaller house in order to fight the case.
He told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency yesterday that he had fought the case not for financial compensation but to clear his professional name and to prove that he had been treated unjustly.