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Council loses race discrimination appeal

1 September 2009

Northumberland County Council has lost its appeal at the EAT against the award of £111,600 to an Asian woman for racial discrimination.

Rosene Railton, who is of Indian origin, started work as a ‘partnership manager’, in charge of cleaning and catering services to schools, in January 2006. In July she claimed she was being bullied and harassed by her manager and this treatment was racially motivated.

The following month she went on sick leave, before eventually retiring on ill-health grounds in November 2008.

An employment tribunal upheld her claims of direct racial discrimination and victimisation under the Race Relations Act 1976.

Delivering judgment in Northumberland County Council v Railton (UKEAT/0095/09/ZT), Judge Peter Clark said the employment tribunal had found that the claimant’s less favourable treatment was prima facie on the grounds of race because her manager had decided she did not “fit in”.

Clark J said the tribunal “inferred” that this view was formed by her manager “subconsciously by reason of the claimant’s race”.

He said the tribunal looked for an explanation unconnected with the claimant’s race and rejected it.

Clark J said the council argued, on appeal, that an employment tribunal’s ruling could be considered perverse where it misunderstood the evidence or made a crucial finding of fact unsupported by evidence.

“That said, we must also bear in mind the need for an appellant to make out an overwhelming case that the employment tribunal reached a conclusion which no reasonable tribunal on a proper appreciation of the evidence and the law would have reached.

“We must be wary of appeals on fact dressed up as points of law, our jurisdiction being limited to correcting errors of law only.”

The EAT concluded that it could discern no error of law in the employment tribunal’s approach and dismissed the appeal.

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Discrimination Education