Raj Chaudhuri’s lawsuit against R&S Records dismissed by employment tribunal
Chaudhuri’s case accused the label and its CEO Renaat Vandepapeliere of discrimination and unlawful dismissal
A case which made accusations of racial discrimination and unlawful dismissal against R&S Records to an employment tribunal in London has been dismissed.
The ruling was made after an employment judge found that the claimant Raj Chaudhuri, aka DJ/promoter/broadcaster/A&R Raji Rags, was a “freelancer and an entrepreneur” and not an employee of R&S Records, as per section 83(2) of the Equality Act 2010 (EQA). Chaudhuri and his lawyer intend to appeal the decision.
The case was filed last year, with Chaudhuri alleging he was unlawfully dismissed from an A&R position at R&S Records in September 2020, citing "discrimination, harassment, victimisation and post-employment victimisation" against label CEO and co-founder Renaat Vandepapeliere.
After the case was filed by Chaudhuri, the Belgian label refuted the allegations, stating "there is simply no truth in anything [Chaudhuri] says."
According to Chaudhuri, he had been working as an A&R for R&S Records on a freelance basis between May 2019 and September 2020 on a monthly retainer, before agreeing to a one-year deal in July 2020, with an agreed fee of £1000 per month plus a share of the profits on seven records planned for release in that time.
Chaudhuri says he was dismissed from the role on September 29, 2021, after claiming he suggested that Vandepapeliere "step down" from his "responsibilities" and work "creatively behind the scenes", after a dispute between Vandepapeliere and Eddington Again about the label’s silence on the Black Lives Matter movement was made public.
This included Vandepapeliere making reference to "a full pure breed black artist". He later apologised for the comment in a statement, saying: “In Dutch, the questionable metaphor at hand is used to express a passion for innate talent, true artistry. However, the haste with which I reacted caused me not to consider its different resonance in English. Also, I failed to see its destructive connotations, a decision that I now cannot meet with anything else than deep regret.”
An R&S press release states the Black artist Renaat was referring to is Mikahl Anthony, who shared a statement in the release, saying: “Renaat has been nothing but genuine in regards to my musical career and also understanding the culture I come from as an African American living in the states. He’s not only supported my Art; he’s been a mentor and true supporter of diversity. I fully affirm his character and the allegations seem completely opposite of the individual he’s been to me. He’s been a man of respect, honor and authentically a great human being. Renaat; he’s changed my life for the better and has always been present in a time of need.”
Following a two-day preliminary hearing across March 10 and 11, Chaudhuri’s case was dismissed on April 6 with the judge, Employment Judge (EJ) Wright, ruling that Chaudhuri was a “freelancer and an entrepreneur” and not an employee of R&S Records.
The judgment, which has been published online, noted in its conclusion: “None of the contractual documentation pointed to an employment relationship; it pointed to the opposite, that the claimant was in business on his own account.”
Not all of the prepared evidence was examined during the hearing. The judgment made reference to “a completely unrealistic expectation in terms of what reading the Tribunal could do in the time allocated”, noting “a 814-page bundle and 81-pages of witness statements.”
According to a report from Resident Advisor, witness statements prepared by Chaudhuri from two former R&S artists, Forest Drive West and Sam Interface, and the label’s former press officer Chanel Kadir were dismissed by Judge Wright due to time constraints. A statement prepared by Vandepapeliere and R&S was also dismissed for this reason.
Only Chaudhuri’s evidence was challenged in cross-examination at the hearing. Vandepapeliere was scheduled to be cross-examined — after having a request to not stand due to ill health dismissed by Judge Wright — from Belgium via video link, but a post-Brexit Upper Tribunal decision requiring evidence given from abroad to be approved by that respective nation’s government caused complications. “After some discussion and delay”, the judgment notes, he was not called to give evidence.
RA reports that Chaudhuri's cross-examination was led by R&S and Vandepapeliere's lawyer, Mr. John Samson of Hatton Chambers, and lasted more than three hours, focusing on the nature of Chaudhuri’s working relationship with R&S. During this exchange, Chaudhuri reportedly alleged that former R&S label manager Andy Whittaker could corroborate that Chaudhuri had fulfilled the role of an “A&R” (not a freelance “A&R scout” as argued by Samson) but would not give evidence due to previously being threatened with legal action by Vandepapeliere, additionally claiming that legal threats had been made to a range of music publications, journalists, artists and industry figures. Mixmag was threatened with a legal letter by Vandepapeliere/R&S in February, 2021.
In the final judgment, the Tribunal found that Chaudhuri was not integrated into R&S as an employee, stating that the relationship was: “erratic and irregular. The evidence demonstrated the claimant was free to choose how and where to do the work, or not to do it at all. The claimant was not in need of protection, was not vulnerable and was not being exploited.”
A press release published on May 9, Vandepapeliere made the following statement:
“I am delighted that the tribunal has dismissed all three claims brought by Raj Chaudhuri.
“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. Differences of opinion over music and artistic direction in a record label are one thing, but to label them as racism or racial inequality is wrong; it undermines the very fabric of tackling racism and makes a mockery of those who are genuinely fighting inequality.
“Dance music has always been about uniting people through the commonality and love of electronic music, regardless of ethnicity, colour, religion or sexuality. I have always been a champion and supporter of original artists. Signing an artist is about their talents; the music they make and produce – it’s what the label stands for. As the Tribunal Judge found, my priority is, ‘the integrity of the music R&S Records produced’.”
The press release also claimed that “Chaudhuri and his legal representative now face applications for costs in excess of £95,000” and that “the Belgian authorities are investigating the possible prosecution of Chaudhuri for blackmail threats.”
Raj Chaudhuri says he is unable to make a public statement at this time. In a statement to the BBC, Chaudhuri's lawyer Lawrence Davies stated they intend to appeal the decision, saying: "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."
Patrick Hinton is Mixmag's Digital Editor, follow him on Twitter