A white NHS nurse ‘frozen out’ after blowing the whistle that black colleagues on a hospital children’s ward were being given more work to do has won a £26,000 employment case.
Jeyran Panahian-Jand told bosses that staff in the department at Whipp’s Cross Hospital in East London were divided on racial lines between the ‘Essex girls’ and ethnic minority employees.
As a result, white nurses at the hospital got a better deal as they were given less tasks to carry out, an employment tribunal heard.
Managers told the ‘good citizen’ to stop talking about the issue, saying she was upsetting colleagues. Ms Panahian-Jand – who is also a lecturer on nursing – was then accused of continuing to raise concerns and suspended.
Now a tribunal has ruled that Barts NHS Trust victimised Ms Panahian-Jand, praising her selfless actions and awarding her substantial compensation.
Jeyran Panahian-Jand said staff on the ward at Whipp’s Cross Hospital (pictured above) in East London were divided on racial lines between the ‘Essex girls’ and ethnic minority employees
Employment judge Sarah Moor said: ‘Race discrimination can only be identified and resolved if working people blow the whistle on it, and not necessarily those most affected by it.
‘Here (she) spoke up when she herself was not personally affected by the acts she was complaining about.’
The hearing in east London was told that Ms Panahian-Jand, who identifies as white, had worked as a paediatric nurse at the hospital’s only children’s ward for 10 years.
During a night shift in May 2019, she took part in a conversation between colleagues and manager Heather Roberts.
‘The discussion was about groupings of staff along racial lines and unfair allocation of work,’ the tribunal heard. ‘Someone made reference to the Essex girls’ group.
‘In talking about cliques or groupings on the ward, (Ms Panahian-Jand) drew a triangle on a piece of paper to reflect a lack of mixing and included some initials of staff members.
‘(She) described groups on the ward divided by race: a group of white nurses; a black and ethnic minority group and some nurses who were in between.
‘This piece of paper was subsequently referred to as a ‘list’.’
Ms Panahian-Jand also claimed to have witnessed incidents of racist bullying against junior staff by white colleagues, the tribunal was told.
It was heard that several days later, Mrs Roberts – who was found by the panel to have believed the accusations reflected badly on her – asked Ms Panahian-Jand to stop talking about the issue.
However, the ‘corridor gossip’ continued and at the end of the month the trust ruled that she could not work on the ward anymore until her alleged misconduct was investigated.
As Ms Panahian-Jand was only qualified to work on children’s wards, this effectively disqualified her from working elsewhere at the hospital, the tribunal heard.
The hearing in east London was told that Ms Panahian-Jand had worked as a paediatric nurse on the children’s ward at Whipps Cross Hospital (above) for 10 years
The day after the restriction was announced, she made a formal complaint of race discrimination relating to how patients and workload was allocated on the ward.
She also accused two colleagues of making racist remarks, one of whom aggressively blocked her way during a confrontation in the hospital car park several days later.
The tribunal heard that although Ms Panahian-Jand was stopped from working on the ward while she was investigated for misconduct, the two nurses she had named continued to be employed.
In October – five months after her ban – the hospital concluded there was insufficient evidence that she had breached instructions not to continue talking publicly about her claims.
In contrast, an investigation had uncovered evidence to support her allegations of race discrimination on the ward, the tribunal heard.
But the ‘astonished’ panel found the trust never disclosed the findings to Ms Panahian-Jand and accused it of an attempted cover up.
Instead, despite being told she would be allowed to come back to work in December 2019 the trust never arranged for this to happen, with Ms Roberts arguing that staff on the ward would be upset at her return.
Finding the trust guilty of victimising Ms Panahian-Jand because she had blown the whistle on racism, Judge Moor said: ‘(She) reasonably believed herself to be acting in the public interest.
‘Both because of the nature of the duty and because (she) was a concerned observer rather than personally disadvantaged and thought of herself as being a good citizen by raising these concerns.
‘The Trust provides a service to the public and it would have been a reasonable conclusion to reach that raising concerns about discrimination, particularly in divisions among staff on a ward, which could affect that service, and in how work was allocated to patients was in the public interest.
‘We find (she) was not raising these concerns in her own private interest. We find she thought race discrimination was wrong and that the hospital had a public equality duty to uphold.’
The panel ordered that the restriction preventing Ms Panahian-Jand from working on the ward should be lifted and awarded her a total of £26,083 in compensation.