Employers should assess their approach to diversity and ensure that it is understood and accepted by employees in light of a case involving six white police officers suing the Metropolitan Police on grounds of racial discrimination, an employment lawyer has warned.
The six officers have launched employment tribunal proceedings against the Metropolitan Police after being cleared of an alleged assault against a group of Arab youths in 2007.
The officers claim that the case was only brought when another officer, who was black, supported the claims of the teenagers.
Michael Bradshaw, partner at Charles Russell, said that organisations should examine their own procedures to avoid such situations arising.
“This case should prompt employers to critically examine their culture and commitment to diversity and ensure that its principles reach all areas of the business in practice, while at the same time being able to identify areas of employee dissatisfaction and take positive steps to overcome these,” he said.
An employer’s best chance of success in avoiding such claims lies in establishing a strong HR culture that encourages diversity in the workplace through initiatives such as transparency, training, equal opportunities, and recognition and reward, added Bradshaw.
“Good and consistent management all the way through the workforce is a huge protection for a business against claims,” he said. “At the same time, employee surveys and communication channels can be helpful in picking up areas of dissatisfaction, which could include a counter-reaction to an employer’s culture or agenda.”
By the time such allegations emerge, it can be very difficult to come up with an approach or outcome that all involved can accept, he added.
Darren Newman, director of In Company Training and XpertHR consultant editor, said that if it could be proved that the complaint against the officers was taken more seriously because it was supported by a black officer it would a straightforward case of race discrimination.
“The issue will be whether that is true or not,” he said. “But these things can be quite difficult to prove. The police will say there was an allegation that was serious enough to go to trail and that it was not discrimination to take seriously that allegation.”
The only lesson that HR could draw from the case was that all complaints should be treated equally, regardless of the race of the person making them, he added.
A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) said: “The Metropolitan Police Service is committed to ensuring that any allegations of wrongdoing by officers or staff are investigated fairly and proportionately, no matter who makes the allegation or against whom it is made.
“The MPS expects the highest standards of its staff, who are all fully aware that they will be held accountable for their conduct and behaviour.
“The employment tribunal claim is stayed pending the conclusion of Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation; this is outside the control of the MPS.”