Applying a fair and consistent process to ensure non-discriminatory action

Posted on June 25th, 2024

In the case of Leicester City Council v Mrs B Parmar, the employment appeal tribunal (EAT) considered whether the employment tribunal (ET) was correct in its conclusion that the council’s actions were racially discriminatory. The council argued that the ET had erred in its judgment by failing to consider all the evidence properly and by not adequately addressing the council’s non-discriminatory explanations for their actions.


Mrs Parmar began working as a social worker for Leicestershire County Council in 1989. In 1997, her employment transferred to Leicester City Council, and by 2005, she was appointed Head of Service for Locality West within the Adult Social Care and Safeguarding Division.

The ET heard about ongoing poor relations between Mrs Parmar’s service area (Locality West) and another service area (Contact and Response). Ruth Lake, the Director of Adult Social Care and Safeguarding, was responsible for managing this conflict.

Handling other incidents

The ET heard about a number of incidents, which occurred between the two service areas:

  • Incident 1: HM, the Head of Service for Contact and Response, swore during a phone call with Ms Lake, audible in the open-plan office. Ms Lake addressed the incident informally and took no further action.
  • Incident 2: HM sent an email stating that public inquiries to her division should be redirected to Locality West, causing discontent among Locality West staff. Mrs Parmar, on holiday at the time, claimed HM’s actions constituted harassment or bullying. Ms Lake did not take action regarding HM’s handling of the situation.
  • Incident 3: An employee raised a complaint against a Principal Social Worker in Social Care and Education. Ms Lake offered mediation but did not start a formal disciplinary process.

Disciplinary investigation

In December 2020, a team leader emailed Ms Lake, expressing a desire to stop being mentored by Mrs Parmar and raising concerns about Locality West. The ET deemed these concerns to be fairly minor. However, following another issue, Ms Lake and HR decided a disciplinary investigation was necessary.

On 7 May 2021, the investigation concluded with no case to answer, and Mrs. Parmar was informed. She filed her ET1 claim form the same day.

Employment tribunal conclusions

The ET referred to information provided after a subject access request, which was supplemented at the hearing:

“The only other Head of Service to be the subject of a disciplinary investigation was JSB who is of Asian origin. The only other person of a comparable grade to the Claimant against whom a disciplinary investigation was commissioned by Ms Lake was KR, who is also of Asian origin. Ms Lake has not commissioned any disciplinary investigations against any white employees of a comparable status.”

The initial ET found in favour of Mrs Parmar, concluding that the actions taken by Leicester City Council were discriminatory based on race. The ET noted that Mrs Parmar’s treatment differed unfavourably compared with her colleagues and lacked a non-discriminatory justification.

The EAT findings

The EAT upheld the decision of the ET. The EAT found that the ET had correctly applied the law and had made a fair assessment of the evidence presented. The EAT emphasised that the council’s actions lacked a credible, non-discriminatory rationale and that Mrs Parmar had been treated unfairly because of her race.

Summary and advice

This case demonstrates the importance of fair treatment in the workplace and reinforces the legal standards for proving discrimination. Employers must ensure their actions are non-discriminatory and well-justified to avoid similar legal repercussions.

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