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Michelin-starred chef sued for religious discrimination after asking employee to remove bracelet

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Glenn Asakawa/The Denver Post via Getty Images

A Michelin-starred chef in London is being sued for religious discrimination for allegedly instructing a former employee to remove his Sikh bangle while at work.

The chef, Herbert Berger, allegedly told Niranjit Moorah Singh, an assistant manager for Berger's catering business, to remove the traditional bracelet to prevent it from getting caught in a ladle — and now he's being taken to court, the Times U.K. reported.

Singh reportedly claimed that in his "20 years working and living in London," he has never once been asked by an employer to remove the metal bracelet of religious significance, known as a "kara."

That is until Berger, an Austrian-born chef who has won stars with London restaurants 1 Lombard Street and the Grill Room, told him to remove the bangle during an evening shift at Innholders Hall, suggesting that it could get "stuck" in a "ladle [while] saucing the food."

In court documents, Singh compared the request to asking a Christian to remove a cross symbol or a Muslim a hijab, according to the Daily Mail.

"Every time Herbert sees me wearing my Sikh Bangle since April he asked me to remove it," Singh stated. "He calls it a bracelet; he never [asked] me what is this in your hand that you [are] wearing. Asking someone to remove their religious signs from their body is against the law: can be a cross of Jesus or a hijab."

The former employee's statement makes it seem as though Berger may have been unaware that the bracelet was anything more than a stylistic accessory. Singh claimed he was "afraid" to approach Berger about his order and said he has worn the bracelet every day after it was given to him by his Malaysian grandfather 35 years ago.

Singh had worked at the Innholders Hall establishment for a decade, starting as a casual staffer but later working his way up to a catering manager until he was furloughed in September 2020.

In his written statement, Singh said, "I have gone through a very hard time since being furloughed and lost my full income ... not only thinking about how I can look after my family back home but going through a depression period of losing everything in my life especially thinking about my Sikh bangle."

According to the Daily Mail, Berger's lawyers successfully had the case dismissed in July, but since Singh was unaware of the hearing, he has been granted another opportunity to argue his claim.

Neither Berger nor his defense team provided comment on the story to the Daily Mail. A hearing is expected this month, after which a final ruling will be given.

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