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UK: Muslim women sue Lloyds after facing disciplinary action for pro-Palestine posts

Two women faced disciplinary action in 2021 after posting messages calling for bank to divest from companies linked to alleged Israeli war crimes
Customers use cashpoints outside a Lloyds Bank branch in central London (AFP)

Two Muslim women who worked for Lloyds Banking Group are suing the British bank for discrimination and are seeking damages after facing disciplinary action for posting pro-Palestine messages on an internal communications channel. 

Afra Sohail and Aunngbeen Khalid both faced investigations and disciplinary hearings in 2021 after they posted messages to fellow employees calling for Lloyds Banking Group to divest from and boycott companies accused by activists of profiting from alleged Israeli war crimes. 

The bank then issued a sanction against them, saying that the posts had breached the company's policies on "professional integrity".

Lloyds Banking Group also reported the sanction against Sohail and Khalid to the Financial Conduct Authority. The sanction will remain on their record several years and would be seen by any potential employer if they applied for jobs in the financial sector.

Both women have now taken Lloyds Banking Group to an employment tribunal in London on Monday after an appeal against their disciplinary action was denied.

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They are seeking damages and compensation and for the bank to withdraw the sanction sent to the FCA.

The tribunal will last until 17 July.

Sohail and Aunngbeen wrote their messages in 2021 after Israel launched a military assault on the Gaza Strip that lasted 11 days and killed 250 Palestinians.

According to court documents Sohail posted her message on the internal channel after she could not return a monitor she received from Lloyds Banking Group made by the brand Hewlett Packard.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement accuses Hewlett Packard of providing hardware to Israel's military and of being complicit in Israeli "racial segregation and apartheid".

HP says it "adheres to the highest standards of ethical business conduct" and "implements rigorous policies to respect human rights in every market where we operate".

A Lloyds Banking Group spokesperson said: “It would be inappropriate to comment on an ongoing legal case.  We are committed to providing an inclusive place of work for everyone, and will always take appropriate action if colleagues fail to meet the expected standards set out clearly in our conduct policy.”

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