A claim that a top international engineering firm had a “preference for blond-haired blue-eyed boys” has been dismissed by an employment tribunal.
Randolph Palmer, a black scientist who previously worked at Ove Arup’s Midland headquarters in Solihull, claimed he had been discriminated against and victimised because of his race. He claimed he was unfairly sacked from the company where he had worked for almost ten years.
But Mr Palmer’s claims were thrown out by an employment tribunal sitting in Birmingham, which found in favour of his former company.
Mr Palmer, of Erdington, was an environmental scientist who had worked at Arup’s Midland campus on the Blythe Valley Business Park near Solihull from 2000.
After five years he was promoted to associate grade but two years later he claimed his career took an about-turn after he questioned why he had not been promoted further.
He claimed he was discriminated against by Arup director Johny Ojeil and manager Mick Hall after Mr Ojeil had said he was “not the right man for promotion”.
When he challenged Mr Ojeil, Mr Palmer alleged he had replied that his career had “gone as far as it would go” as the firm had “a preference for blond-haired blue-eyed boys”.
Under cross examination Mr Palmer claimed he was the victim of “institutional racism” as his career progression was halted and subsequent grievance claims were not taken seriously by the company’s human resources department.
The tribunal judgment noted Mr Ojeil said he did not believe he had made the comment.
Giving evidence Mr Ojeil said that as a British Arab – his father was Lebanese and he grew up in Lebanon – he had been a victim of racism and that he would “never consciously discriminate against another person”.
Mr Ojeil also denied allegations by Mr Palmer that requests made by his line manager, Debbie Bunce, for him to be promoted were blocked.
The tribunal heard how relations had soured following a restructure of the department and Mr Palmer was unhappy at a new leadership structure.
He had also raised concerns about his salary with Mr Hall, though Mr Hall said he did not claim he was being discriminated against. He added that Mr Palmer said he was unhappy with the new structure and would “work to rule”.
Mr Hall said at one point Mr Palmer raised the prospect of redundancy with him, as Arup was making staff redundant at the time but he told him his role was not redundant and he wanted to help “develop and progress his career”.
He added that their relationship did not improve in 2010 and that Mr Palmer “became distant and isolated himself from the rest of the team”.
In September 2010 Arup announced it would be making 600 redundancies and Mr Hall said he concluded he should restructure his department and cut the number of environment management teams from three to two, meaning one environment management team leader would be made redundant.
The team of three were given point scores in a number of categories, including key skills for current and future business and employee performance – Mr Palmer scoring seven points compared to 12 for both of his colleagues.
Mr Hall said: “Overall Mr Palmer scored lower than his colleagues and therefore his position was at risk of redundancy.”
Mr Hall said he believed the decision was “fair and correct” and denied the redundancy process was “a sham” to get rid of Mr Palmer.
The judgment said: “The claimant had himself to blame in relation to his low scoring in terms of performance because of the way in which he conducted himself in the year preceding his dismissal.”
An Arup spokesman said: “We are pleased that the employment tribunal has dismissed Mr Palmer’s allegations.
“At no point did we believe the allegations had any merit and we were confident throughout that the tribunal would find our actions reasonable and justified.”