'A victory for racial justice': Tribunal rules that Britain's FCDO discriminated against black employee

WION Web Team
London, United Kingdom Published: Dec 01, 2021, 01:00 PM(IST)

Warner suggested in 2019 that a £2m grant given to a Nigerian charity should be closely monitored, and just two days later, people associated with the charity accused her of having an affair with one of its employees. Photograph:( Twitter )

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This ruling follows six months of departmental inquiry into Warner's work in Nigeria. During her trial, it was alleged that she had formed an intimate relationship with an employee of a government-funded organisation, a charge she denied

An employment tribunal has ruled that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) discriminated against Sonia Warner, a senior black civil servant.

As a civil servant for 33 years, Warner was subjected to discrimination when she was questioned about her sex life by the FCDO.

In the opinion of the tribunal, Warner, who handled government grants given to Nigerian organisations, was discriminated against in an unconscious manner when she was "pushed away", "disowned" or "othered" by her colleagues.

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The tribunal found that Warner had been subjected to unconscious bias by senior colleagues who assessed and conducted claims against her.

This ruling follows six months of departmental inquiry into Warner's work in Nigeria. During her trial, it was alleged that she had formed an intimate relationship with an employee of a government-funded organisation, a charge she denied.

Warner suggested in 2019 that a £2m grant given to a Nigerian charity should be closely monitored, and just two days later, people associated with the charity accused her of having an affair with one of its employees.

She was subsequently accused of misconduct, including failing to disclose a relationship conflict of interest.

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Documents show that an all-white FCDO team conducted a six-month investigation into the allegations and then sent Warner a final written warning. 

The tribunal has not yet ruled on whether Warner should receive compensation although the remedy hearing is planned for February.

After 33 years of dedicated service, Warner feels humiliated and heartbroken by the treatment she received from her white colleagues who she believed would act impartially and fairly.

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Talking about the unfairness of it all, she said that it has taken two years for this issue to be heard because conscious and unconscious bias exist and are real barriers to fairness and equality, adding that she hopes this victory for racial justice will lead to a stronger commitment to protecting black employees through HR systems and processes.

Last year a report found that many black, Asian and minority ethnic men working in government development had experienced prejudice at work, including racist jokes and doubts about their citizenship.

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