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Barking and Dagenham council discriminated against housing officers

An Employment Tribunal has ruled that a local authority committed acts of race discrimination, disability discrimination and less favourable treatment of part-time workers.

8 January 2019

The East London Employment Tribunal ruled on 27 December 2018 that the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham acted unlawfully when it dismissed three employees, following a hearing in October and November 2018.
 
The employees, whose claims were brought by the GMB trade union, represented by law firm Leigh Day, all worked as Housing Officers for the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham.
 
The Council dismissed all three employees in the summer of 2017, claiming that their roles were redundant. However, the Employment Judge ruled that in reality their roles were not redundant and that all three employees were unfairly dismissed.
 
One of the three Claimants came to the UK as a refugee in 1998. He had worked for the Council for 18 years. The Tribunal found that during the so-called redundancy process, a senior member of the Council’s management team discriminated against him because of his race.
 
Another Claimant worked part-time due to caring responsibilities. She had worked for the Council for 37 years. The Tribunal ruled that she was dismissed because she worked part-time.
 
The third Claimant worked part-time due to her disability. She too was dismissed because she worked part-time. The Tribunal ruled that this was also an act of disability discrimination.
 
The Employment Tribunal will decide the level of compensation that should be awarded at a hearing on 18 and 19 March 2019.
 
Annie Powell, solicitor at Leigh Day who represented the three workers, said:
 
“This is a damning judgment. For a local authority to discriminate against an employee because of his race and to dismiss employees simply because they worked part-time is deeply concerning.
 
“Together our clients had over 65 years of service working for the Council. One has been unable to find work since her dismissal, and two are now in jobs with much lower salaries.
 
“We would urge the Council to carry out an urgent review of its practices and the values held by its senior managers.”
 
Tony Warr, Head of Legal in GMB London said:
 
“This is a decision that should make all employers sit up and take stock of their selection procedures. On behalf of our three members, GMB Union had no hesitation in supporting these most meritorious cases.
 
“Time and time again the GMB warned the Council that the process implemented by management was flawed and that these cases would end in litigation. Regrettably, the managers of the Council and their legal team rejected our representations. The decision highlights the necessity for an immediate review of how Barking and Dagenham Council push through their restructures, even after it has become clear that they are flawed, and how they select individuals for redundancy.
 
“The GMB has always been willing to work with the Council and hope they will now sit down with us, involve the Unions in the much needed review and to ensure situations such as this do not arise in the future.”

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