The Central London Employment Tribunal found that the Metropolitan Police had not only discriminated against an officer due to her sex and race but had also failed to follow their own Fairness At Work Procedure properly.

PC Howard, a 35 year old black female firearms officer, issued a claim at the tribunal against the Met Police after she was “singled out and targeted” for almost a year, between January and October 2012, because she stood out in the “almost exclusively” male and white Diplomatic Protection Group in which she served.

PC Howard claimed that her superior, Acting Inspector Dave Kelly, subjected her to a “course of conduct which was detrimental to her”. AI Kelly would “order” other officers to ask PC Howard about her sex life and whether she was sleeping with a colleague, it was found. AI Kelly’s conduct included assuming that every absence of PC Howard’s was not genuine, and not supporting her application for an armed response vehicle role. The solicitor representing PC Howard said, “(AI Kelly) treated the claimant particularly badly and she was often reduced to tears as a result of his behaviour”.

Though initially, PC Howard attempted to deal with her complaints through the Met’s Fairness At Work procedure, the panel found that the detective sergeant involved in looking at the complaint was told to delete references to discrimination and harassment relating to sex or race from their report, resulting in disappointing findings for PC Howard and leaving her with no option but to file a claim. The judgment concluded that it was deleted “not because they were not supported by evidence but because the claimant had brought a complaint of race and sex discrimination and harassment in the tribunal”.

PC Howard has been in the force for 10 years and still continues to do so. She is seeking compensation for injury to feelings and aggravated damages; a public enquiry into how the force handles discrimination claims and the re-write of the force’s equality procedures have been called.

While the case is clearly damning for the Met Police’s reputation, particularly after a series of scandals and controversies surrounding the removal of damaging material which has led the Home Secretary’s call for reform in a speech made in May to the Police Federation, it is also a ‘wake-up call’ to employers in ensuring their Fairness At Work Procedure is robust and most importantly - fair. Employers must also make sure that proper records are kept when dealing with complaints that are made through this procedure (and any other procedure), and though it goes without saying, are never manipulated
For further information, please contact Koichiro Nakada – Head of Japan Business Group (koichiro.nakada@lewissilkin.com) and Yoko Nakada - Senior Associate, Deputy Head of Japan Business Group (yoko.nakada@lewissilkin.com).
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