A former president of the National Union of Students (NUS) who was sacked over allegations of antisemitism and breaching union policies has launched formal employment tribunal proceedings, claiming she was subject to “discriminatory conduct”.
Shaima Dallali was elected NUS president in March 2022 and started the role in July, but was dismissed in November last year after the union said there had been “significant breaches” of the union’s policies.
In a statement at the time, the union said there had been an “independent KC-led investigation into allegations of antisemitism,” under the NUS code of conduct.
It is understood to be in relation to social media posts from 2012 which referenced a massacre of Jews in 628.
Dallali later apologised for the post, and called it “unacceptable”, and following her dismissal hired the services of law firm Carter Ruck to fight her case.
That has now escalated into employment tribunal proceedings against the NUS, as well as lodging an appeal to the union directly under its internal appeals procedure.
The NUS says that its process had been “robust”.
A press release from Carter Ruck said that Dallali contends the dismissal amounted to “discriminatory conduct” against her.
It said: “Ms Dallali has deeply held, publicly-articulated beliefs on the right of Palestinians to live free of occupation. As the NUS has belatedly had to accept, Ms Dallali’s pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist beliefs amount to protected beliefs for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010. She has publicly articulated those beliefs throughout her adult life, just as she has consistently and repeatedly condemned antisemitism.”
The release said that Dallali “considers that she was disadvantaged at every single stage of that process” in regard to dismissal proceedings.
It said added the lead complainant was consulted on who the investigators would be and the terms of reference for the probe when Dallali was not, and said that she was “repeatedly required to defend or renounce the views expressed by other Muslims, despite never having expressed those views herself”.
Carter Ruck alleged that NUS “refused even to take into account Ms Dallali’s written submissions,” and added that she was not allowed legal representation at her disciplinary hearing despite “the leading counsel who had undertaken the investigation” being allowed to “play a dual role as investigator and presenting officer”.
It continued that the NUS “repeatedly failed to take any steps to facilitate the calling of a number of witnesses whom Ms Dillali had identified as being able to give evidence which was important to her defence” during the disciplinary and appeal.
Carter Ruck’s statement added that Dillali first learned of her dismissal from a news website article shared on Twitter, which included comments from the lead complainant. The statement said “the NUS either leaked, or allowed to be leaked, highly sensitive and clearly confidential information concerning Ms Dillali into the public domain”.
Dallali is seeking declarations and compensation for loss of earnings, stigma damages, personal injury, injury to feelings and aggravated damages on the grounds that she was discriminated against on her protected beliefs, racially discriminated linked to her association with Palestinian and Muslim people, and harassment related to religion or belief.
A spokesperson from the NUS said: “We are confident that the independent KC-led investigations that led to the dismissal of the previous president were conducted in a thorough and fair way – and in the strictest parameters of the law. There is no room for doubt that this process has been as robust as it gets.
“We understand the former president has now submitted employment tribunal proceedings. Our focus is to represent all students and to rebuild NUS to be an inclusive and progressive force for good. We are taking steps to enact our antisemitism action plan and to mobilise students to campaign for a better future.”