Teacher accuses Edinburgh council of racial discrimination

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A TEACHER claims she suffered years of racial discrimination from colleagues at one of Scotland’s biggest councils.

Kamaljit Kaur is taking Edinburgh council to an employment tribunal, making 61 allegations against 15 members of staff.

The 48-year-old claims she has been victimised because of her Indian origins for the past five years.

Mrs Kaur, from Morningside, Edinburgh, said the discrimination happened while she was working as an English as an Additional Language teacher in the city’s primary schools.

She claims the problems began in 2005 when she was working at Sciennes Primary and raised concerns about a Muslim pupil being bullied.

Mrs Kaur alleges that following the incident she was exposed to a “hostile working environment” and that she was discriminated against as she tried to progress in her career.

The teacher said she was eventually moved from Sciennes to work in schools all over the city.

Mrs Kaur, who was born in Britain and is a UK citizen, was represented at today’s hearing by her husband, Professor Prim Singh.

The respondents include Sciennes’ head teacher Alison Noble, but also council leader Jenny Dawe.

Professor Singh, 50, said they wanted to hold top members of the council “to task” on the grounds that they should be “setting the tone of the organisation”.

He also claimed his wife had faced race discrimination when applying for promotions.

He said: “The visibility of ethnic minorities in the council are all in the lowest positions.

“There appears to be a glass ceiling.

“There are no ethnic minorities in the management or senior positions – my wife was working in a situation where everyone else was superior.”

Professor Singh opposed a move by lawyers for the respondents to time-bar the case on the grounds it stretched back to 2005.

Cases should normally be brought within three months of the alleged incident. Lawyers for the respondents claimed Mrs Kaur should have submitted allegations as they happened.

He said: “To ask her to write out a grievance every time they happened – when they were constantly going on – is absolutely preposterous.

“It got to the point that these incidents were happening all the time and my wife takes care of our three children alone as I live and work in Germany.

“She felt very stressed constantly fighting this situation whilst looking after the children.”

Hayley Johnson, representing each of the 15 individual members of the council, said the case should be time-barred.

She said: “For numerous allegations to be considered as a continued act the claimant would have to prove the alleged incidents of discrimination were linked.

“The fact that this claim involves so many different people and have gaps of time in between them shows no evidence that they were linked.

“These were isolated, one-off allegations which should have been lodged as they happened.”

Ms Johnson added that she would seek to have Councillor Dawe and Gillian Tee – the director of the Children and Families department – excused from the case on the grounds that they have not been accused of specific incidents of race discrimination.

Employment Judge Susan Walker said she would have to take some time to consider the time bar issue and would respond to both parties in writing within six weeks.

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