This is a real case of a whistleblower coming to the assistance of an employee with a grievance and providing the damning evidence that helped a Camden Council employee, Fraser Valdez to win his case against his employers.
Fraser Valdez had been working for Camden council for 15 years and was described as a high achiever. When Environmental Services within the Culture and Environment Department was restructured employees were invited to apply for senior positions. Fraser Valdez applied for one. He certainly had the experience. Fifteen years in a job shows loyalty and knowledge. To ensure no discrimination takes place, all candidates are interviewed and are given a score for their interview ‘performance’. This is where the series of unfortunate events started. Fraser scored 17 points whereas another candidate, of white colouring scored 16. So logically and in line with the interview scores selection criteria, Mr Valdez should have secured the senior job. But scores were altered in a moderation meeting days after the interview and the “successful” candidate had his score manipulated upwards to 18.
Mr Valdez raised a grievance as he, of course knew his work record and that he had performed well at the interview and he suspected that he had been disadvantaged for race reasons. His case would have been impossible to prove if it was not for the intervention of a whistleblower who circulated original documents showing the original scores from the interview which proved that the scores had been altered at a later “moderation” meeting. This revealed that Fraser Valdez had been disadvantaged after the interview and this action lost him the job which he had won as part of the interview process. He then had to prove that the job had been taken from him on the grounds of his race.
The way that the case unfolded would make a brilliant book and could be called “The Whistleblower”. It would track the struggle of one individual in the pursuit of truth and justice against a powerful organisation who have a legal team and all their HR Advisers on their side. Whilst it would make a good read, the human side of the story cannot be overlooked. This sixteen month long struggle was stressful to the central character (Fraser Valdez) who had to fight for what was his right against an organisation that he had been proud to work for and believed in and obtain justice. This is the tragedy in such a case, that a person’s belief in what they had held to be true for over a decade had been shattered and they have to come to terms with the fact that the people they work for were not worthy of trust and respect. Someone else obviously agreed as they stepped in as a whistleblower to provide the evidence that exposed the inconsistencies and machinations of the recruitment and selection process in this case.
There was more to this case than met the eye. The story made the front page in the hard copy of the Camden New Journal. The headline read “Race Divide at Council” but the sub heading is even more disturbing “Only 1 out of 31 senior positions come from ethnic minority”. I wonder how that compares to other councils…
Those figures obviously rang alarm bells with the newspaper. But that was not the only wrongdoing that the case uncovered. Imagine this scenario, you have a certain number of people and you have to assign them to two teams. What are the chances that Team A would have predominantly white people and Team B mainly ethnic minorities? Even using a random selection technique, what are the probabilities that the teams would end up being racially segregated? Any reasonably minded person would supect that there was some form of racial motivation behind the creation of the teams. The Council said it was coincidental but Judge Anthony Snelson disagreed.
Camden Council appeared in the list of rotten boroughs in the February to March 2013 hard copy edition of “Private Eye” under the heading “Camden Colour Bar”. Here are two snippets from their article “Ask anyone for a list of Britain’s most right-on, racially aware councils and the London Borough of Camden would surely feature…..Tribunal Judge Anthony Snelson ruled that council chiefs were guilty of direct racial discrimination. He said he found the “profoundly unsatisfactory accounts” given by witnesses “not merely flawed and contradictory, but false”. All successful candidates for the senior posts were white, hired by “uniformly white” decision makers. “We can well understand the claimant’s use of the word ‘segregation’,” he said. “Oh dear”.
The Council’s reaction to the outcome of the judgment was that the findings were “obviously worrying”. A council spokesperson endeavours to reassure the readers (residents who are potential employees, voters etc) and their current staff that these findings are unusual and that they will be taking appropriate action. What does that mean? What is “appropriate” for discriminating against employees and then giving false accounts presumably under oath at a tribunal hearing? Camden Council does not say what happened or will befall to those directly involved.
It appears that these racial divide problems may have been of concern for some time. An ex Camden employee has commented on the online article, saying that there were other instances of racial disadvantage in previous Camden Council reorganisations but unfortunately no whistleblower stepped forward on those occasions.
Please feel free to share yout thoughts on this case in the comments section below.