Whipps Cross nurse awarded compensation after NHS trust slammed for unfair suspension

A former paediatric nurse has won a £26,000 payout from the NHS after she was suspended for trying to defend colleagues from alleged racist bullying.

Jeyran Panahian-Jand, who is white, was banned from working on Acorn ward at Whipps Cross Hospital, Leytonstone, in May 2019 after complaining about discrimination and had yet to be allowed back in January this year.

Two other nurses who she accused of making “racially abusive remarks” and bullying other staff members did not have their work restricted.

After a virtual employment tribunal in January, a panel led by employment Judge Moor ruled there was “no logic” to this decision.

It found Barts Health NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, had “sought to hide… evidence of discrimination” found in an investigation triggered by Miss Panahian-Jand’s complaints.

In a decision published on February 10, Judge Moor wrote: “This is a classic case of an employer treating far too severely a person who raised allegations because they had done so.

“We find the claimant was not raising these concerns in her own private interest. She thought race discrimination was wrong and that the hospital had a public equality duty to uphold. She was trying to be a good citizen.

“Another clue to this is that ultimately she made complaints in writing against some members of staff with whom she had good relationships.”

On May 30 in 2019, Miss Panahian-Jand was told she would be restricted from working on Acorn ward, which due to her qualifications meant she was unable to work at the hospital.

It was alleged that she had “refused a reasonable management request to refrain from talking about issues that made other staff feel uncomfortable”, namely the allegations of racism.

Miss Panahian-Jand was interviewed in July 2019 by Barts HR manager Dhrupsha Kara, who eventually decided there was no case against her.

An investigation into her complaints however, conducted by London Audit, did find evidence of racial discrimination against staff on the ward.

Judge Moor said the panel was “astonished” that, during the tribunal hearing, witnesses from Barts Health NHS Trust still claimed “there was no real evidence of discrimination” found.

He said: “The trust has sought to hide in its summary of the report, evidence of race discrimination found in the investigation.

“(Barts HR director Simon) Steward plainly did not want these findings aired and it supports us in our conclusion that he hoped the allegations would fail.

“He (also) diminished the findings… in his written statement to us. We are astonished that the Trust’s Head of People should have adopted this approach.”

The panel felt it should have taken “no more than two weeks” to let Miss Panahian-Jand know when she could return to work after she was cleared of wrongdoing.

As of January this year, she has still yet to return to the ward, after being promised in December 2019 that this would happen in early 2020, which Judge Moor said was “inexcusable”.

The panel initially heard from ward manager Heather Roberts that “a high majority” of staff on the ward did not want her back, which she later retracted.

Judge Moor wrote: “We are not satisfied that there are any more than four members of staff on a ward of 60 who are concerned about the claimant’s return. They have formed a loud minority.

“There was no good reason for continuing to restrict (Miss Panahian-Jand) beyond the week or two it would have taken to confirm the decision and organise a ward debrief.”

The panel ordered the trust to lift the restriction stopping Miss Panahian-Jand from working at Acorn ward within a month of the ruling.

She was also awarded £26,083.19 in compensation, of which around £5,600 is to reimburse financial loss caused by disruption to her work.

A Barts Health spokesperson said today: “We are committed to eliminating discrimination and becoming a truly inclusive organisation and are sorry these allegations were not dealt with more effectively or in a more timely manner.

“We are carefully working through the findings of this case to help us determine the next appropriate steps.”

Advertisement

Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter