Landmark UK case- Woman awarded £183,773 in first 'caste discrimination' case

The Cambridge Employment Tribunal has upheld a number of claims by a “low caste” Indian woman in the first successful case of its kind.

Permila Tirkey, from Bihar in India, was forced to work as a domestic servant for Mr and Mrs Chandhok. The Employment Tribunal concluded that Ms Tirkey was chosen by Mr and Mrs Chandhok because of her position as a member of the Adivasi caste. Caste is a hereditary division rooted in Hindu society, based on factors such as wealth, rank or occupation. The Adivasi caste is the lowest class in the Hindu "caste pyramid". Mr and Mrs Chandhok wanted someone “who would be not merely be of service but servile, who would not be aware of United Kingdom employment rights". The Tribunal concluded that caste is an aspect of race and the fact that Mr and Mrs Chandhok had chosen Ms Tirkey based on her caste and treated her poorly because of her caste meant that they were discriminating against her.

Ms Tirkey was also paid well below the National Minimum Wage. Ms Tirkey worked an 18-hour day, seven days a week for 4 and a half years and was paid just 11p an hour. She was awarded £183,773 to compensate her for what she would have been paid if she had received the National Minimum Wage.

The Tribunal found the conditions in which she was forced to live and work was a "clear violation of her dignity" and "it created an atmosphere of degradation which was offensive".  Ms Tirkey slept on a foam mattress on the floor.  She was prevented from bringing her Bible to the UK and going to church and was not allowed to call her family.  Her passport was held by the Chandhoks and she had no access to it. Mrs Chandhok would call Ms Tirkey “girl”, despite being younger than her, which the Tribunal said was “demeaning”.  The Tribunal concluded that she was harassed on the grounds of her race, subjected to unacceptable working conditions and was the victim of indirect religious discrimination.

Ms Tirkey's barrister, Chris Milsom of Cloisters Chambers, said she could now receive a substantial amount in compensation in addition to the £183,773 award she has received in respect of wages.

Ms Tirkey’s solicitor, Victoria Marks from charity the Anti Trafficking and Labour Exploitation Unit, said: “This is a very useful judgment for victims of modern day slavery. We hope that it will give other victims the courage to come forward and seek redress.”

If you have any questions in relation to caste discrimination or any other area of discrimination please contact our employment solicitor Claire Berry on 01480 442040 or email:

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