Susan Belgrave Successfully Represented Black Solicitor
Susan Belgrave successfully represented Black solicitor who accused senior management including County Solicitor of race discrimination when they made her redundant.
Employment Tribunal Judgment Ms E Jarrett V Essex County Council
Essex County Council found guilty by Employment Tribunal (ET) of race discrimination, victimisation, harassment, unfair dismissal and breach of contract
The ET found that Philip Thomson, the Head of Essex Legal Services, had racially discriminated against Ms. Jarrett and “did make inappropriate references to Hitler, that good practices could be learnt from his management techniques”.
Ms Jarrett, a very experienced senior solicitor, worked as a Team Manager for Essex County Council (ECC) in their legal department which is known as the Essex Legal Services (ELS). Ms Jarrett is Black African and had been recruited because of her management experience. From the moment Ms Jarrett commenced her role with ELS she started experiencing hostility from her managers that intensified throughout the 2 ½ years she was employed with ECC. Ms Jarrett was dismissed after she refused to accept a role which she considered was unsuitable for her at the end of a redundancy exercise. Ms Jarret brought a claim for direct race discrimination, victimisation, harassment, unfair dismissal and breach of contract against Essex County Council. In a reserved judgment dated 18th September 2014, her claim was upheld.
The case is unusual in that the ET found for the Claimant on all of her grounds of claim and also that Ms Jarrett had established so a large number of critical issues and senior managers of Legal Services were criticised in a damning ET judgment.
In the discrimination part of the claim the tribunal found at:
Para 231.1. “Mr Thomson did make inappropriate references to Hitler, that good practices could be learnt from his management techniques. This aspect to the allegation is upheld. Any positive reference to the work place to Hitler has the potential to be highly offensive to any person of ethnic minority origins because of his responsibility for the murder of millions of such people and for pronouncements of belief in the superiority of people from one race over people from an, or any other. A person of ethnic minority origins is bound to feel disadvantaged in a workplace managed by a person who considers it acceptable to make any positive reference, of any kind, to Hitler. Therefore this is a detriment to Ms Jarrett.”
Commenting on the culture of the organisation the tribunal stated:
Para 240.7. “There was a culture of attributing inappropriate nick names: starting with Mr Thomson as “piggy eyes” (an apparent reference to the way he looks at women), the Claimant referred to as “Evil Lyn” and Ms Isaacs as “Miss Tease” which she understandably found very offensive. The Respondent’s denial of such a culture and of awareness of such name calling lacked credibility, particularly in light of Ms Isaacs’ evidence. Sexists are not necessarily racist, and racists are not necessarily sexists. However, the existence of such a culture is indicative of a working environment where diversity issues are not taken seriously and where there is a lack of respect for such issues. To the point, Mr Thomson headed up a department where such a culture was able to exist.”
Para 240.8 “That brings us to the Hitler comments. We have explained above why it is that any person from a minority group, (well really, any right thinking person would regard any favourable reference to Hitler in the workplace as offensive. Any person in a position of senior management ought to understand that. This is another indication of a lack of appreciation of diversity issues. However, there is more to it than that; that a person makes a favourable reference to Hitler, might be an indication of an underlying admiration for him or of underlying racist views.”.
Para 240.9. “Mr Thomson must have understood that his reference to Hitler might create difficulties for him in this case, that is why he denied in his witness statement ever seriously suggesting that Hitler had good management ideas and he states that he has no knowledge of discussing Hitler with anyone. The problem for Mr Thomson is that two credible witnesses, one for the Respondent, do recall him discussing Hitler, on 2 separate occasions. Not only did that undermine Mr Thomson’s credibility as a witness, it cast a shadow over him as a person, it is something from which the inference may be raised that he is a person who may well treat a person less favourably because of their race”.
Para 240.10 “That in turn, leads us to our concerns regarding Mr Thomson’s personal involvement in the process that led to Ms Jarrett’s dismissal. ELS is clearly very much run by Mr Thomson. Whilst Human Resources devised a scheme for implementation of the reorganisation that was professional, reasonable and fair, it was clear that all key decisions on implementation were deferred to Mr Thomson…”.
Unfair Dismissal Claim
The claimant successfully established that she was unfairly dismissed on the basis that she was unfairly selected for redundancy and that ELS failed to offer her suitable alternative employment.
The tribunal concluded at para 274 that “But for the personal intervention of Mr Thomson, the dismissal was likely to have been fair.”
The case has been widely reported through the press.