Jean Michel Tchamba with his dismissal notice
Published: 12 August, 2016
by TOM FOOT
THE chief executive of the Whittington has said he hopes to learn lessons from a “complex case” after an employment tribunal ruled that one of the hospital’s staff was racially discriminated against.
Simon Pleydell was responding to a judgment last week following what the tribunal described as the “extraordinary” dismissal of Jean Michel Tchamba in June last year.
The medical equipment technician was featured in the New Journal after he was told on a hand-scrawled piece of paper to leave his post immediately and that he had no right to appeal.
Mr Tchamba had argued that he was the victim of unfair dismissal and racial discrimination. The tribunal upheld his claim relating to the way he was dismissed.
In an unusual legal ruling, the panel ruled that the manner of dismissal was such that the burden of proof transferred to the hospital trust – meaning it was up to it to prove it had not been racially motivated.
The ruling said: “Given the claimant is black and given the respondent [the Whittington] has not done this to any employee before, there is a prima facie case of racial discrimination here. The burden transfers.
“The tribunal does not accept the explanation given shows that race played no role here… it seems to us unlikely that the respondent would behave in this way in respect of a white employee with the same length of service.
“It is possible that the racial discrimination was unconscious. On the balance of the probabilities this would not have happened had the claimant been white.”
Mr Tchamba worked for 10 years in the Whittington’s medical physics department. But in October 2014 he began complaining of bullying, harassment and racial discrimination.
Eventually he was told he should go and “work in the community” – in GP surgeries rather than the hospital itself – which the tribunal heard amounted to a demotion. There was “less kudos” in working on GP medical machines than complex hospital ones, the tribunal judgment said.
Mr Tchamba’s dismissal notice – one page typed, the other handwritten – said: “You persisted in making allegations and these now extended to your new manager with whom you have been difficult, and your behaviour continues to be unreasonable.
“We consider that the relationship between us has deteriorated to the point that you no longer have a future with this trust.”
The tribunal had looked at evidence that Whittington managers were said to have considered there to be a “monkey group” of lower-level workers in the medical physics department. But the tribunal said it would appear that “monkey” was not used in the racial sense, “but rather it was used in a sense of derogatory to the standard of work”.
In a statement to the New Journal, Mr Pleydell said: “The unusual issues highlighted within this isolated case are no longer in existence and the majority of personnel involved are no longer employed by the trust.
“Our approach is to learn from this complex case and we will share the lessons and this will form part of the ongoing governance improvements across the trust.
“It has taken longer than I would have liked to resolve this matter but I am pleased that we can now draw a line under this case.”