Payout for lab assistant compared by boss to ‘man who killed MP in Southend’

Waqas Rai’s former manager was caught saying he thought he had been radicalised.

Mr Rai’s dismissal part way through the placement jeopardised his studies
Mr Rai’s dismissal part way through the placement jeopardised his studies (Lauren Hurley/PA)

A student lab assistant compared by his manager to “the man who killed the MP in Southend” has won a payout for alleged discrimination.

Months after Waqas Rai was sacked from his university placement job, the former manager gave a lecture to his course in which he was heard discussing dismissing the 23-year-old because he thought he had been “radicalised”.

Micropathology, a lab services company based in Coventry which holds contracts with the NHS, fired Mr Rai without notice in December 2021.

The lecture was recorded and uploaded to the internet for Mr Rai and his course mates on the biomedical science undergraduate course at Warwick University to view.

In later correspondence with the university, the manager explicitly compared Mr Rai, who is Muslim, to “the man who killed the MP in Southend”.

Sir David Amess MP was killed in 2021 by Ali Harbi Ali, who was convicted of murder and the preparation of terrorist acts.

Ali Harbi Ali killed MP Sir David Amess
Ali Harbi Ali killed MP Sir David Amess

Mr Rai’s dismissal part way through the placement jeopardised his studies. At one point he was told by Warwick University he would not be able to pass the year without completing the necessary amount of weeks.

It also affected him in his final year, when he found he had less lab experience than his peers.

“At that time when you’re in your final year, they expect you to know certain things,” he told the PA news agency.

The manager – who has not been named – described Mr Rai as “very intelligent” but said his “totally passive” behaviour was an indication that he had been radicalised.

When he viewed the lecture, Mr Rai said he “put two and two together” and “came to conclusion that this was the reason why I had been dismissed.”

Mr Rai, from London, took Micropathology to an employment tribunal, but the parties settled before a final hearing.

The undisclosed settlement does not contain an admission of liability on the part of Micropathology, but the company did express “regret” for any offence caused and pledged to carry out equality and diversity training.

Mr Rai, who was supported by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said the episode had affected his mental health and made him feel “anxious about continuing to work in the industry”.

“I was quite distraught… it shouldn’t have happened,” he said.

“Every time I join a new institution or start a new job, I feel like I’m always going to be paranoid about what people think.

“At first, I felt scared to speak up about it myself. I didn’t know who to go to, and I felt that a lot of students or people around my age that go through this sort of thing don’t know there are people there to help.

“I worry I’m not able to be myself because of what people might be thinking about me.

“I hope that sharing my experience can help prevent it from happening to others in the future, but to anyone who’s been treated like I have, I want to say that there is help out there.”

Mr Rai, who is now completing a physician associate masters degree at the University of East London, worried being dismissed could stay “on his record” and make it harder to find jobs in the future.

His lawyer, Asif Timol, added: “Some of these terms now they’ve been so weaponised with the current political climate that the implication as a Muslim, is huge.”

A statement published on the Micropathology website, which was not attributed to a particular manager, expressed “regret” for any offence caused to Mr Rai.

The statement continued: “The recording and subsequent transmission of what I thought was a private conversation with a third party individual was entirely regretful.

“I would like to assure Mr Rai, that my comments… were not motivated by Mr Rai’s race or religion neither of which I knew.

“I accept that there are lessons to be learned from this experience… I, together with other senior staff, will also arrange for training on equal opportunities issues.

“I regret any upset, offence or distress caused and I would like to wish Mr Rai all the best in his future endeavours.”

Baroness Kishwer Falkner, chairwoman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said the manner of Mr Rai’s dismissal and the “comments subsequently made about him in an attempt to justify it are totally unacceptable”.

“Everyone has the right to go to work without worrying they’re going to be treated differently because of their race or religion,” she added.

“On this occasion the comments were shared publicly, but it doesn’t matter whether they were made in a lecture hall, a laboratory, an office or even in an email – discrimination should not be tolerated anywhere.”