The equality watchdog "mistreated, penalised and pushed out" a female member of staff on maternity leave in an attempt make her unaware of promotional opportunities, a tribunal has heard.
In a three-day hearing against the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which began in South London today, Brid Johal accused her employer of sex discrimination. Johal, who works as a senior PA to the director of the commissioner's office, has alleged she was not told of a promotion that came up while she was on maternity leave in 2008, and was therefore unfairly treated compared to other staff.
The case follows a string of internal disputes at the watchdog - set up to eradicate prejudice and discrimination at work - and comes just days after claims that chairman Trevor Phillips will not have his three-year contract renewed when it comes to an end in the autumn.
During the tribunal hearing today Johal claimed: "My current role was downgraded during the restructuring but at the same time a recruitment process was being concluded for a level 4 post [promotion]. I should have been notified of the career opportunities available. My employer had downgraded my status."
She added that she felt no effort had been made to consult her, and the she had been "mistreated, penalised and pushed out".
Johal had worked as a PA in the commissioner's office for seven years, and was transferred across to the EHRC from the former Commission for Racial Equality. The newly-created level 4 post, an office manager position, became available as part of restructuring in early 2008.
The Commission, which denies sex discrimination, said Johal became aware of the new post at the same time as everyone else, when an e-mail was circulated in February 2008. In a meeting in March 2008, the Commission said that Debbie Woods, Johal's line manager, went through the new structure with her and at no point did Johal express a wish to fill the vacancy, or complain of the lack of communication during her maternity leave.
Johal said: "I wasn't aware there was a promotional opportunity in my team."
The case continues.