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Head of Legal loses employment tribunal claim against local authority

A council head of legal services has lost an employment tribunal case against the authority for which she previously worked.

Amardip Healy, who was last winter appointed chief legal officer at Epsom & Ewell Borough Council, took action against Slough Borough Council for direct race discrimination, victimisation, protected disclosure detriment, unpaid wages and constructive dismissal.

Ms Healy is now considering an appeal. Barrister Oliver Hyams, of Devereux Chambers, who represented her, said: “I have identified that there appears a lack of sufficient reasons for the conclusions of the tribunal in respect of breaches of the Equality Act 2010. Furthermore, in my view the analysis of the tribunal of the claim of constructive unfair dismissal was legally flawed.

“Therefore, we are looking carefully at an appeal of the decision which, even on the basis of our cursory review, appears to have a good prospect of success.”

The case arose during a tumultuous period at Slough when a chief executive was removed and the tribunal noted it was “a local authority with multiple problems. There were several disputes between various senior officers”, several of whom issued grievances and counter-grievances against each other.

It noted Ms Healy had been Slough’s head of legal services and deputy monitoring officer since 2011.

An anonymous complaint was made about her conduct in 2016 in which it was alleged that Ms Healy procured a legal services firm because a close friend had promised her son work experience and employment. (This allegation was subsequently rejected.)

The complaint also said she had bullied and harassed staff “who said nothing because they were fearful of losing their jobs”.

Ms Healy later submitted a complaint to acting chief executive Roger Parkin that said: “The sad reality is that the nature of your behaviour towards me has amounted to bullying and has been designed to undermine me. I believe I am being treated differently on the basis of my race, as I see no other evidence that anyone else that is the subject of any investigation treated as poorly as those of an ethnic origin.”

An investigation recommended Ms Healy’s suspension.

There followed a complex series of hearings at which she complained about the council’s conduct towards her while others made allegations of misconduct against her.

In July 2017 Ms Healy resigned saying in a letter to Mr Parkin: “For the sake of my own health and well being, I cannot accept this conduct [by the council] and accept the council’s breaches of my employment contract any longer.”

In its ruling the tribunal said: “There was no evidence of direct race discrimination. On the contrary, the tribunal found positive evidence of a non-discriminatory reason for suspension, namely the alleged misconduct of the claimant which was investigated [and acted upon] by way of suspension.”

Turning to the constructive dismissal ground, the tribunal said it “could not accept there had been a breakdown in the term of trust and confidence between the claimant and respondent, nor could she have thought there was such a breach”.

It dismissed both that and the other grounds claimed.

A Slough spokeswoman said: “We are pleased at the result and do not recognise the Slough Borough Council being described by Amardip Healy.”

Mark Smulian

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