Justice for Detective barred from WFH in disability discrimination claim against the Metropolitan Police

A London employment tribunal has ruled that Scotland Yard discriminated against and harassed a detective with a serious heart condition by refusing to allow him to work from home, against medical evidence, and where this carried the risk of a heart attack. This discriminatory conduct was set against the background of historic and systemic racism within the Metropolitan Police, following publication of the Baroness Casey Review, an independent review into the standards of behaviour and internal culture of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) in March last year. 

The judge backed the claim of 57-year-old detective Tarik Ahmed, a 22-year veteran of the force, that senior officers rejected his request to work from home permanently and badgered him with demands that he return to a police office. Ahmed told the tribunal that senior officers were aware that he was suffering from ischaemic heart disease, having experienced multiple heart attacks. His condition was exacerbated by stress and anxiety owing to past experience of alleged racism, and he suffered stress and anxiety in travelling to and working in a police station. Ahmed had worked in a desk role as a family disclosure officer and, as a result of his health, had been put on restricted duties. Consequently, he was unable to perform frontline policing duties involving potential confrontation or sensitive work and was not required to undergo job-related fitness tests. Ahmed told the tribunal that he had worked from home since 2020 and lawyers for the Metropolitan Police had previously accepted that there was no operational reason why he was required to attend the office. The tribunal also heard evidence that Ahmed’s predecessor in the role had worked from home for seven years. 

Ahmed told the tribunal that he had requested reasonable adjustments to work from home permanently in a routine that would be reviewed regularly so that he could manage the symptoms of his heart disease and the triggers of stress and anxiety. However in response to his requests, Ahmed was pressured to return against medical advice, with the Met Force acting as part of a wider push within the force to encourage staff back into the office after the coronavirus pandemic, and relying on an unwritten policy. 

Ruling that the Met Force had failed to comply with its duty under equality legislation to make reasonable adjustments by refusing to allow Ahmed to work from home with six-monthly reviews, the judge also said that the Met had harassed the detective by pressuring him to return to the office against medical advice. 

The tribunal deemed that Ahmed’s evidence was “consistent and credible” and was supported by occupational health records and contemporaneous written communications. The judge said that the continuous pressure to return to the office “crossed the line” and created an intimidating environment, amounting to harassment related to his disability. He ruled that senior officers were aware of Ahmed’s disability and the effect that stress had on him — yet they pressed him to return to the office, despite the potential risk of a heart attack.

A hearing to determine compensation is scheduled for July.

Mukhtiar Singh represented Mr Ahmed at the final hearing; Finnian Clarke acted in the earlier stages of litigation. Mukhtiar and Finnian were instructed by Cole Khan Solicitors LLP.  

Colin Davidson of Cole Khan Solicitors said, “I am delighted to have achieved justice for our client in this hard-fought case. This was a win for common sense where a reasonable adjustment to allow WFH meant the difference between life and death for our client. Our client is a living example of the Baroness Casey Review, which found that disability discrimination was the most frequent claim brought against the Met Police and there was "no willingness to learn from these cases or reflect of the signals about the wider toxic or bullying culture".

Mukhtiar Singh said, “A great result following a great team effort. Interesting that in his evidence, the police's most senior officer witness agreed that the Met had a "blind spot" when it comes to those with disabilities. I hope this triggers a closer look and positive response to the criticisms in the Baroness Casey report.” 

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