Council pays for failing to support employee against racist abuse

A London council has been criticised by an
employment tribunal for failing to respond appropriately when one
of its black employees faced racist abuse from a client.

Social worker Sandra Simpson brought her case
following the failure of her managers in Lambeth to understand the
seriousness of the racist abuse she had experienced and their
failure to deal with it.

Croydon employment tribunal upheld Simpson’s
complaint of race discrimination last week, concluding that racist
abuse was not something that social workers should be expected to
endure as part of their job.

Simpson was a senior social work practitioner
concerned with the council’s court application to remove five
children from a family. At the end of a seven-day hearing, the
family’s father subjected Simpson to a number of strongly worded
racial comments and insults.

Simpson informed her managers of the abuse,
but she was “invited to contact the council’s solicitors and pursue
some course of action with them”. Subsequent meetings with managers
failed to dispel the “general mood” that it was for Simpson “to
make suggestions as to what ought to be done” about the father.

Although Lambeth was not liable for the
father’s behaviour, the tribunal said there were a “number of
omissions and failures to support” Simpson following a “very
distressing and unpleasant” incident.

The tribunal found there was a failure to
provide “appropriate support”, which was a “race specific failure”,
concluding that there were “unconscious attitudes of
discrimination” by the council.

Simpson was awarded £1,000 for injury to
feelings by the tribunal, as well as wages allowances lost during
her sick leave.

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