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Ex-council employee's tribunal ruling overturned after lay member 'fell asleep'

A tribunal ruling over Slough Borough Council’s former head of legal services has been overturned following allegations a lay member fell asleep during her hearing.

Amardip Healy, who started working for the local authority in 2011, brought a number of claims against the council to an employment tribunal after she resigned in July 2017.

The hearing, held in July and August the following year, dismissed claims from Mrs Healy of racial discrimination and unfair constructive dismissal during her time at the council.

She had alleged that she had been subjected to bullying and intimidation and had been treated differently because of her race.

But Mrs Healy appealed the tribunal’s decision and claimed a tribunal member was ‘asleep, or appeared to be asleep, more than momentarily, at a number of points’ during her cross-examination.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal held a subsequent hearing into the case on October 11 and has now ruled the original tribunal decision should be overturned.

The appeal found that Mrs Healy and her husband had made statements alleging they had spotted a member of the tribunal, Ms A Brown, falling asleep during the initial hearing.

Ex-council employee Carol Clegg, who attended the hearing on July 5 2018, made the same allegations.

She said: “On the afternoon of Thursday, July 5, I observed that Ms Brown had fallen asleep during the cross-examination of Mrs Walker (the council’s former monitoring officer).

“It was not a momentary lapse. She was clearly in a relaxed state of slumber with her arms supporting her head for a considerable period.”

The tribunal member ‘vigorously denied’ the allegations and said in a statement if there had been any suspicion she had fallen asleep surely this would have been reported at the time.

But in a ruling from the Employment Appeal Tribunal, published on March 19, Judge Auerbach said: “On the balance of probabilities, we are bound to conclude that there were several episodes, during the course of the evidence of these two witnesses over these three days, when Ms Brown either fell asleep or dozed off more than momentarily, and at least for up to one or two minutes at a time, or at the very least gave the appearance of having done so on all of these occasions.

“There was at least a real possibility that the fairness of the overall hearing was affected.”

Mrs Healy’s appeal was ruled to be successful and a fresh hearing will now take place in front of a new tribunal.

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