It's been a tough week. Four days of cross-examination with me and two witnesses, along with NCI and their four witnesses. Closing submissions were yesterday and the Judgment is expected within the next four weeks.
In the meantime, in honour of International Women's Day, I would like to share with you what I read to the tribunal yesterday. The contents speaks for itself. Further blog posts to follow!
It is my belief, that this week, I have demonstrated to the tribunal how a male Muslim supervisor discriminated against me, a modern female English Muslim employee, for a period of six months prior to my resignation. I have shown how my former employer, NCI, ignored this behaviour, disregarded my complaints - which they did not take seriously, and indeed laughed at – leaving me with no choice but to resign. Subsequently NCI went to great lengths to cover it up.
I believe these events have been amply proved beyond reasonable doubt by NCI’s contradictory and fabricated evidence, witness statements and testimony. I believe it has also been proved beyond reasonable doubt by my evidence, and that of my witnesses, whose testimony has been found to be fully consistent.
On Monday I was cross examined and the Respondents could not produce a single contradiction in my statement. On Tuesday there was not a single contradiction demonstrated in Ellie Wilkinson’s statement and yesterday morning there was not a single contradiction demonstrated in Katie Pickering’s statement.
The Respondents produced flaccid witness statements that do not cover what actually happened, and their statements are filled with contradictions and fabrications which I have proven with evidence to the tribunal.
The prolonged stress caused by NCI’s failure to act appropriately, not only further increased the symptoms of my long-term depression and anxiety condition, but also contributed to the weakening of my immune system, which led to more frequent sickness periods than usual for me. NCI not only caused this, they then threatened to punish me for it, unnecessarily prolonged my suffering.
Mohamed’s questions to me in our first meeting demonstrated his discriminatory approach. His questions were not of genuine objective interest because of his background but he chose these specific questions in order to intimidate, diminish and belittle me. They were deeply intrusive and offensive. I have never in my life come across anyone so intrusive and presumptious.
Yesterday the Respondents brought up the subject of Mr Abdalla’s question, when he asked me if I knew the meaning of the word ‘Jihad’. Whilst I found this disturbing and sinister, it was not mentioned in my brief outline because that act alone did not constitute discrimination.
Yesterday Mr Abdalla stated NCI knew of these planned meetings with individual staff, which he says were designed to allow him to “get to know them better”. He said Mr Jones was aware of the nature of Mr Abdalla’s questions. Mr Jones contradicted this, and stated Mr Abdalla did not tell him about his plans for these meetings or that he would be asking staff intrusive questions.
Mr Abdalla gave preferential treatment to another Muslim employee, Ms Fatima Arshad with only two months of employment behind her, he gave her almost the entire month of August off as holiday.
Mr Abdalla said he would have tried to ensure all three Muslims had time off for the important Muslim religious observance, Eid. He and Ms Arshad both took the same two days off on two separate occasions. I was not granted one day on either occasion. Yesterday he stated this was because of staffing issues. Yesterday this was proved to be untrue.
They were both sick on the same day. The submitted rotas – new copies of which were sent as late as 1st March this year - show they were working. Indeed, we have heard that Mr Abdalla regularly changed rotas to suit him and Ms Arshad I myself complained about his regular habit of putting himself down as working when he was not at work. We have heard evidence to suggest that he was suspended from NCI after I resigned, partly for this reason.
Mr Abdalla stated that the submitted rotas are not definitive because there are two systems. Why then, did not NCI submit definitive evidence?
Mr Abdalla denies knowledge of my medical condition and the reasons for my period of reduced hours and duties. Yesterday he himself brought up the white doctors notes. Because he had seen them. He was my supervisor. He was responsible for the sales team rota and holidays.
In spite of my repeated requests not to work three Saturdays in a row immediately after returning to regular hours and duties, Mr Abdalla refused to change the rota. This was corroborated by Katie Pickering. Yesterday he said it was a “mistake”. He said made the same “mistake” with Mr *****. But when Mr ***** complained, Mr Abdalla changed the rota.
The Respondent refutes that the Saturdays worked and the rotas are incorrect for that month. We have already seen that the rotas are not reliable. Certainly in the hands of Mr Abdalla. But they have not submitted alternative evidence. They suggest I was happy working three Saturdays
Indeed they even suggest that I requested overtime. There was no overtime request. I was still adjusting to medication when I returned to regular hours and duties and was only just coping with this as it was.
In the transcript of the meeting on 20th July the tribunal can see that I mention the following to Mr Abdalla:
*I was upset about previous events, including the audit, which I believed had been unfairly marked as a fail (resulting in a 15% deduction in commission).
*My concerns over my performance whilst on reduced hours and duties being compared to those on regular hours and full duties
*My medical certificate
*That my performance prior to these reduced hours and duties was commensurate with the rest of the sales team, and indeed my scores were above average
*Moving me up to Level 5 had been discussed on previous occasions with Mr Abdalla
*That previously, in my six month review, Mr Jones had informed me my level 5 progression was imminent before the previous April
These are some of Mr Abdalla’s responses:
*The audit “shouldn’t be a fail” and that he and Mr Jones were sorting it out
*He does not demonstrate lack of knowledge of my medical condition
*He does not deny my assertions about my previous performance and that I had already been told I would progress to level 5
*There is no problem with my behaviour
In relation to the First Stage Absence meeting that took place on 23rd August Mr Abdalla said he remained silent because he was there merely to observe. He said he didn’t say anything. But this was untrue. He said he didn’t deny anything because he was unable to speak. I submit to the tribunal that he didn’t deny anything because everyone in that room knew my allegations were true.
Ms McDonald confirmed in the meeting of 23rd August that NCI is above the law. She demonstrated that sickness absences procedures do not apply to NCI. They have their own rules. Hence the meeting.
In addition to what I was already going through, I was put through the ordeal of having to read a letter telling me I had triggered a Stage 1 Sickness. It was Mr Abdalla who initiated the Stage 1 and this is confirmed in his statement (page 3 point 21). Yesterday he said it was nothing to do with him.
Of the four occasions of my sickness absences which they discussed, one was not recorded by Mr Jones and was confirmed that it could not be included. This left three occasions, of which one was disability related. This left only two occasions of absence that clearly did not justify a Stage 1.
NCI were legally required under the Equality Act 2010, to ensure if absence is related to disability, to keep records separate from other sickness absences. They did not do this.
At this point, I hadn’t yet given the sales team complaints to Mt Jones. However their existence was common knowledge within the sales team – some because they contributed, and others who didn’t want to be included. They were all aware of the existence of these bullet point complaints. The bullet points were dated 10th August, the Stage 1 letter was dated 11th August.
I believe Mr Abdalla was trying to pre-empt the presentation of the sales team complaints. Mr Jones and Ms McDonald were complicit in this, because they would have known my absences didn’t justify a Stage 1. Which is why they didn’t issue me with a warning – because it wasn’t legal to do so.
The Stage 1 meeting was set for 23rd August. The day before, on 22nd August, Mr Abdalla took the opportunity to cause me further distress by continuing to bombard me with emails over my audit. He had already told me twice it had failed and twice that it was being overturned, so I was so fed up with the situation that I went over to his desk to ask him to stop. This is when he leaned over his desk, glared at me, and said in a threatening voice “it’s a fail”. I found it frightening and physically threatening.
He had finally broken me.
That evening I wrote my resignation letter and the following day I attended a meeting orchestrated by Mr Abdalla.
Yesterday he glared at me in a similar way, and it all came flooding back.
NCI say they carried out an investigation, which NCI, including director Mr Neil Richards-Smith, signed off before the evidence itself had been signed off. But they did not question everyone who had knowledge of my treatment by Mr Abdalla, including my witness Ellie Wilkinson. They did not question ***** who knew about it. They did however, falsify and alter evidence to suit their agenda. They submitted meeting notes which some of their employees signed, trusting that NCI had accurately recorded what was said. They used leading questions to gather some of this false evidence. They focussed as much as they could on attempting to discredit me. For example, Ms Turner’s meeting record was submitted. She states she had nothing to do with the Sales Team complaints she asked me to present to NCI. Documentary evidence - mobile phone texts - shows this was not true. My witness Katie Pickering has shown Ms Turner to be unreliable and dishonest. Other NCI employees who might have been willing to submit witness statements on my behalf were afraid of repercussions. ***** kindly compiled a statement, but then reluctantly withdrew it for this reason.
The Respondents have failed to follow the Tribunal process. They continued to supply documents well after the bundle was produced, including new documents and an index on 22nd January. They failed to supply relevant internal email correspondence, both in my Data Subject Access Request and through disclosure.
They made further disclosure, including a new statement, on 1st March. This followed exchange of statements on 7th February. Prior to exchange on 7th February the Respondent did not inform me that Mr Abdalla’s statement had not been signed. They also failed to inform me that they would be supplying a further statement on 1st March. Joanna from Clarion solicitors agreed that all statements would be exchanged simultaneously.
What I suffered at the hands of Mr Abdalla, with the collusion of NCI, didn’t all happen on one day, it was over a period of 6 months.
Part of the problem with Mr Abdalla’s treatment of me was the way in which he was very careful to conceal it from others in the office. He was deceitful and covert in his actions.
It was this, and NCIs failure to take any action with regard to my complaints that I recorded two meetings at NCI.
Had Mr Abdalla been an upstanding, honest and professional supervisor, and if he and the rest of NCI management given me the confidence to believe they would do the right things, I would have had no reason to use these transcripts.
I apologise for not sending the audio recordings. Once the respondents accepted both transcripts in their bundle and didn’t ask for the audio, I wasn’t aware I should have still sent them. I have copies of both recordings available here today should they be required.
I would also like to inform the tribunal that NCI have a CCTV system with audio. They could easily have saved and backed up meetings and incidents in the sales office if they had wanted to. Indeed I requested they look at this footage to see the incident which made me decide to resign. They failed to so do.
It is my belief that it is possible that Mr Jones and Ms McDonald may have struck a deal with Mr Abdalla when NCI learned of my impending legal action. Instead of sacking him, I believe they let him resign in return for coming to give evidence. I cannot prove this, but I find it difficult to understand what other reasons there might have been for him giving a statement or giving evidence. If he was in any way concerned about his reputation I suggest he would have been fully conversant with all the evidence yesterday.
The Respondent’s witness, Mr Richards-Smith may not have been fully complicite in any deal struck with Mr Abdalla, but he was certainly responsible for a failure to follow good management practice. I believe this was partly fuelled by his discriminatory attitudes which lead to a dereliction of duty, as director, to follow through with a proper investigation into my complaints. It was also partly fuelled by his lazy reliance on Mr Jones and Ms McDonald to deal with me, so he didn’t have to.
Because of this Mr Jones and Ms McDonald were in a position where they could carry out their plan to do whatever they could to attempt to discredit me and therefore cover up their own incompetence and failure to take action which could have avoided me being forced to resign, and then putting me through two years of distress which has forced us to be here today.
During evidence given this week, we have learned that NCI’s ethnic minority employees make up about 2% of the workforce.
The excuse given for this was location, and that so few people from ethnic minorities live in the catchment area.
And yet both Ms Arshad and Mr Abdalla live in Bradford.
It has been indicated by the Respondent that I’m a difficult and aggressive employee. Yet NCI did not want me to leave.
My performance, which dropped off for a short period due to reduced hours and duties, was excellent. Yet they failed to promote me.
When my work suffered due to the treatment I was being subjected too at NCI they denied me a pay increase stating performance as the reason.
The fact remains my former employer NCI vehicle Rescue PLC is guilty is guilty of a course of conduct which has the effect of undermining the contract in employment.
Both Ellie Wilkinson and Katie Pickering give a damning opinion of Mr Jones, a member of the management staff, with 16 years’ experience.
Perhaps the most shocking part of this tribunal experience has been to hear and see the man who bullied me, laugh when questioned about the word Jihad. He laughed over something unbelievably serious making a mockery of it.
I have the rare privilege of speaking regularly in The House of Lords and also addressing Select Committees. I have only ever been treated with the greatest respect, warmth and graciousness. Before Mr Abdalla joined NCI I was treated the same way in my day job as a Sales Advisor. This entire experience with NCI has been quite devastating.
I am a modern, independent, English woman of Muslim Heritage. Mr Abdalla, over the course of 6 months, took every opportunity to humiliate and intimidate me with the collusion of NCI management.
I respectfully submit to the tribunal that the respondent, NCI Vehicle Rescue PLC discriminated against me because of my race, religion, gender and disability.