Brent Council guilty of race discrimination

An employment tribunal has determined that a black worker at Brent Council was racially discriminated against.

The authority’s former head of learning and development, Rosemary Clarke, claimed that she was forced to leave her job because of differences between herself and her line manager.

After making a series of complaints against her line manager, Ms Clarke was informed that she would be suspended in order for an investigation in to an allegation of gross misconduct to be carried out. She was also barred from council premises and from accessing her emails.

During this period Ms Clarke’s colleagues were informed that she had been suspended, when usually they would just be informed that a member of staff was on leave. The council also insisted that, if Ms Clarke wanted to arrange to meet union representatives on the council’s premises, it should be informed of the timings, which was not standard procedure.

Ms Clarke later resigned after being signed off by a doctor for severe anxiety. In a letter to the council she wrote: “There are numerous reasons for my resignation which in summary include conduct against me, such as harassment, bullying, discriminatory treatment, victimisation and breaches of the express and implied terms of my contract of employment.”

Despite her resignation the council continued its disciplinary investigation against her, which was in contrast to their earlier treatment of an unnamed white male employee. The disciplinary action against him for the same alleged offence was abandoned once he had resigned, on the basis that any further action could impair his ability to work in his trained field in the future.

The employment tribunal ruled that Ms Clarke had been directly discriminated against on the protected characteristic of race and that the council’s subsequent treatment of her constituted victimisation.

Compensation is to be determined at a later hearing but meanwhile Brent Council has said it will appeal the tribunal’s decision.

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