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Judge dismisses employment tribunal claim against R&S Records

Raj Chaudhuri’s claim was dismissed due to him not being “in employment” at the label

Employment Tribunal dismisses unlawful dismissal claims against R&S Records

A judge has dismissed claims of unlawful dismissal and racial discrimination made against R&S Records and its CEO Renaat Vandepapeliere by Raj Chaudhuri, AKA Raji Rags. 

According to Chaudhuri, he acted as a freelance A&R for R&S for a period between May 2019 and September 2020. He filed a Particulars Of Claim with the UK employment tribunal in January 2021, in which he claimed to have been unlawfully dismissed from the label in September 2020. The claim also outlined multiple instances of alleged "discrimination, harassment, victimisation and post-employment victimisation" involving Vandepapeliere. R&S and Vandepapeliere denied the claims, describing them as “spurious, untruthful and damaging”.

Following a preliminary hearing, which took place in March this year, a judge has ruled that the case cannot proceed because Chaudhuri was a freelancer, not an employee, at the label. "The Tribunal concludes the claimant was not in employment under a contract to personally do work," wrote Judge Victoria Wright. "He was an independent freelancer and an entrepreneur."

Resident Advisor reports that, during the preliminary hearing, both Chaudhuri and Vandepapeliere were scheduled to be cross-examined. An alleged initial request from Vandepapeliere to not stand due to ill health was dismissed. Due to a post-Brexit law that requires people giving evidence from abroad to get permission from their national government, Vandepapeliere, who is based in Belgium, reportedly did not end up standing. 

Chaudhuri’s cross-examination, which RA reports lasted over three hours, was led by R&S and Vandepapeliere's lawyer, Mr. John Samson of Hatton Chambers, and focused on the particulars of his work for the label. Despite Chaudhuri’s argument that the volume and type of work he did for the label was that of an "A&R", as distinct from an “A&R scout”, it was ultimately ruled by Judge Wright that the “nature of the work” was “erratic and irregular” and that he “was not in need of protection, was not vulnerable and was not being exploited.”

In response to the ruling, R&S and Vandepapeliere shared a joint press release on 9th May. In a statement included in the release, Vandepapeliere said: “This last two years has been absolute hell for me and my partner Sabine, my family and the artists on our record label. My artistic policy for R&S Records has always been inclusive and Raj Chaudhuri knew that. He also knew that allegations of racism would have a devastating impact on me and my business. We would like to personally thank our loyal friends, fans and artists who have remained supportive throughout these very difficult times."

R&S’ press release adds that, as a result of the judge’s ruling, Chaudhuri and his legal representative now face applications for costs in excess of £95,000.

In a statement shared with the BBC, Chaudhuri's lawyer, Lawrence Davies, wrote: "We are about to appeal the judgment to the Employment Appeal Tribunal because we believe it is important that self-employed workers have the benefit of Equality Act 2010 protection. Further, it is important to note that the underlying substantive allegations of racism were not examined or decided upon by the tribunal."