A Merseyside policeman nicknamed ‘Dolly’ after country music legend Dolly Parton because he was considered a clock watcher who strictly worked ‘Nine to Five’ has won a claim at the employment tribunal.
PC Stephen Knox has been awarded over £12,000 after successful claims for victimisation and disability harassment by his former employer Merseyside Police.
Knox’s claims were initially brought in 2019 and referred to incidents that took place in 2017. A separate claim for sex-based harassment over the Dolly Parton jibes was dismissed after being submitted too late.
PC Knox’s allegations included that a fellow officer whistled the song at the station and printed A4-size photographs of Dolly Parton to display on his desk.
The harassment started after the constable changed his shift patterns to suit his childcare needs, according to his legal submissions. He also had to provide daily care for his disabled mother after his father had died.
Police force culture
He had transferred to Huyton station in Liverpool where he was told his hours would be nine to five.
He told the tribunal that his sergeant had asked “what makes you any different?” when he was unable to do two early shifts that had been allocated to him.
PC Knox also said he was “grilled” about his personal circumstances and told he should not be treated differently because of his caring responsibilities.
The clashes over his work rota and banter from colleagues caused his mental health to “plummet”, the tribunal heard.
The claims for harassment relating to disability stemmed from when PC Knox was on sick leave for stress, anxiety and depression. During the course of a home visit, he said he was told by his chief inspector that there would be a “favourable report” that he should continue to receive full pay while on leave.
Later, however, PC Knox received a letter that required him to return to work on 1 September 2017 when his sick note expired. The favourable report had not materialised, something the constable felt was intimidating, hostile and degrading.
Another allegation focused on an email PC Knox felt had been threatening in nature as it suggested he would be subject to performance procedures if he did not return to work. The tribunal ruled that this amounted to disability harassment as the email had made PC Knox “feel fearful for the future of his employment and severely distressed”.
In his complaint of victimisation, PC Knox disputed how a number of protected requests for information (subject access requests) were handled, and alleged that some of his notebooks had gone missing.
Compensation for unlawful harassment totalled £12,080, but PC Knox’s request for personal injury, financial losses, loss of congenial employment and aggravated damages was refused.