An employment tribunal has heard how a former employee of Baaf
Adoption and Fostering described the organisation as “Kafka-esque”,
with a management culture of bullying and secrecy.
Sylvia Barker, a Baaf employee of 15 years, quit her job as the
organisation’s development officer last October after what she
alleged was four years of “harassment”.
Barker told the Croydon tribunal last week that the organisation’s
chief executive, Felicity Collier, continually criticised and
“nit-picked” her work and demoted her for no apparent reason. The
hearing for constructive dismissal opened and was adjourned in
Barker, who had been off work between January and April 1998 with
pleurisy, accused Collier of harassing her when she was ill. On her
return to work, Barker said Collier tried to make her retire on
health grounds. At appraisals, Collier allegedly questioned
Barker’s ability to cope with the pressure and workload of the job.
In an emotional address that saw her break down in tears several
times, Barker said by July 2001 she had lost hope that her
situation would change. “It was like something out of Kafka. I
didn’t know what evidence there was against me and what I was
Richard Harrison, representing Baaf, said Barker had made claims of
excessive secrecy prior to Collier joining Baaf and had allowed her
grievances to “fester”. He said a doctor had found it difficult to
diagnose Barker’s illness and said Collier had contacted Barker
simply to ask how she was. He also suggested it was reasonable for
Collier to offer Barker retirement based on her uncertain condition
and length of absence.
Harrison also denied Collier had said Barker was unable to cope and
disputed the claim she was demoted.
John Simmonds, director of policy, research and development at Baaf
and Barker’s line manager, told the tribunal he had not seen any
evidence to support her allegations.
In a statement made outside the tribunal, Baaf vice-chairperson
Anthony Douglas said: “I wish to confirm that the trustees
completely reject the allegations made by the applicant about the
organisation and her claim she was constructively dismissed. Baaf
is a thriving and well-managed voluntary organisation and we have
absolute confidence in the chief executive and her management
The hearing was adjourned until 19 December.