In an extreme case of workplace tension between colleagues leading to prolonged litigation, the dismissed former head of a police force’s in-house diversity unit has suffered defeat in a marathon legal campaign to prove that he was the victim of racial discrimination.
The man, who is black, was dismissed in 2005 and had ever since insisted that he was disadvantaged and treated with no respect by some of his co-workers because of his race. He made 62 complaints of alleged racial discrimination and victimisation to an Employment Tribunal (ET) but, following a 23-day hearing, he was only permitted to proceed with two of them, both relating to his alleged exclusion from meetings.
He claimed that those two incidents were ‘manifestations of a racially motivated campaign against him’. However, his compensation hopes were dashed when the Court of Appeal ruled that there was simply not enough evidence that any mistreatment or disrespect he endured was motivated by his race.
The ET had made ‘highly critical findings’ against two of the man’s former colleagues, finding that they had ‘deliberately tried to undermine him on a consistent and persistent basis’. One woman, and to a lesser extent another colleague and a senior police officer, had ‘engaged in what amounted to a sustained campaign’ against the man, the ET found, also concluding that that campaign was ‘at least in part’ because of his race.
The police authority that had employed him challenged the ET’s findings of racial discrimination as ‘perverse’, arguing that there was only the flimsiest evidence that the relevant incidents had been racially motivated. In allowing the appeal, the Court emphasised that the type of break-down in relationships that occurred in the case was ‘of a kind that is not all that uncommon in the workplace, without any reference to race’.
Concluding that there was ‘no sufficient basis’ for the ET’s findings of discrimination, the Court noted: “Staff do sometimes, fairly or unfairly, form low opinions of their managers and think that they could do the job better themselves.”