Two cases of note warrant a mention this month. First, a health worker has been found guilty of misconduct following a disciplinary investigation. Victoria Wasteney, a Christian, is a senior occupational therapist working for East London NHS Foundation Trust was found to have bullied a Muslim work colleague.
The allegations made included:
- – asking her to pray with her
- – giving her a book about a Muslim woman who converted to Christianity, and
- – asking her to a sports day at her church
The decision followed a nine months’ suspension. She has received a written warning and has been told that she must not talk about her faith when at work. However, she is appealing the decision with the support of the Christian Legal Centre. The Centre is well known for being involved in a number of the most high profile religious discrimination cases in recent years.
As I reported in early 2011 there is a particular problem with the interaction between work colleagues and those whose religion includes and encouragement or even obligation to evangelise. It is a classic dilemma of competing human rights.
Meanwhile details have emerged of a very unusual case including allegations of sectarianism, not in Northern Ireland but in Scotland Yard. Detective Inspector Paul Armstrong, a Roman Catholic, says that he was routinely subjected to bullying and harassment by his boss, Detective Chief Inspector Mark Roycroft, and Ulster protestant. He maintains that exclusion from meetings, blocking promotion and career progression and numerous untrue statements constituted direct discrimination resulting from sectarian bias. Scotland Yard is yet to decide whether to contest the claim which is due for a hearing in the central London Employment Tribunal in September.
It goes without saying that such cases need to be handled with particular care and sensitivity and they have the capacity to be very costly indeed for employers who can often make well intentioned but nonetheless harmful decisions. As ever, I advise anyone facing any discrimination issues to contact us as soon as possible so that we can advise from the outset and hopefully defuse claims before they materialise