A British Indian woman who claims that she was racially targeted at a work event loses her case.
Shivali Patel, senior consultant at Deloitte, believes that her boss Ben Combes compared her to Pocahontas during a work event. Following that, she brought her claims of discrimination and harassment to the employment tribunal.
However, in September 2023, all claims made by Ms Patel were dismissed.
Summary of the Case
The case stemmed from a comment made at an event held at a BrewDog in London. During this event, she believed that Mr Combes compared her to Pocahontas and his wife. This created a tense environment, which she believes was a racially targeted way for her boss to come on to her.
However, the employment tribunal, led by Judge Joffe, delivered a judgment on 27th September 2023. The ET then dismissed all of Shivali Patel’s claims.
Judge Joffe concluded that no evidence was supporting her claims.
The judgment emphasised that the conversation about Pocahontas related to genealogy, with Combes discussing his wife’s family belief that they are descendants of Pocahontas. The tribunal concluded that Patel’s inferences were a result of overthinking inconsequential small-talk remarks made during a single occasion.
Despite Patel’s assertions of being racially targeted and discriminated against, the tribunal found her claims lacked merit. This underscores the importance of concrete evidence in workplace discrimination cases.
The judgment prompts reflection on the need for thorough investigations and the consideration of all available evidence in such racially targeted cases.
ET Judgment – Was She Racially Targeted?
The employment tribunal, led by Employment Judge Joffe, considered various claims made by Shivali Patel. This includes constructive unfair dismissal, direct sex and race discrimination, harassment related to sex and race, and breach of an equality clause.
The judgment, delivered on 27th September 2023, ruled against Ms Patel on all counts.
- Constructive Unfair Dismissal: The tribunal dismissed Ms Patel’s claim for constructive unfair dismissal. ET stated that she failed to establish grounds for such a claim.
- Direct Sex Discrimination: Ms Patel’s claims of direct sex discrimination were not upheld. ET found insufficient evidence to support her allegations.
- Direct Race Discrimination: Similar to the sex discrimination claims, the tribunal rejected Ms Patel’s allegations of direct race discrimination. ET stated that the evidence presented did not substantiate her case.
- Harassment Related to Sex and Race: The tribunal did not uphold Ms Patel’s claims of harassment related to sex and race. ET emphasised that there was no evidence supporting the alleged inappropriate remarks made by Mr Combes.
- Breach of Equality Clause: The tribunal also dismissed Ms Patel’s claim for breach of an equality clause incorporated into her contract.
Despite Ms Patel’s assertions that she was racially targeted and faced discrimination, the tribunal concluded that her claims lacked sufficient merit.
The judgment highlighted that Ms Patel had “unconsciously embroidered the discussion” and that there was no evidence supporting the inference that Mr Combes’ remarks were intended to be flirtatious or racially targeted.
The Importance of Concrete Evidence
The tribunal’s decision prompts discussions about the interpretation of workplace interactions. Further, also the importance of concrete evidence in discrimination and racially targeted cases.
While Ms Patel maintained that she felt racially targeted and harassed, the tribunal found no substantial basis for her claims. This outcome underscores the need for a thorough investigation and the consideration of all available evidence in such cases.
The case of Shivali Patel against Deloitte highlights the complexities and challenges associated with discrimination claims in the workplace.
Despite Ms Patel’s assertions of being racially targeted and compared to Pocahontas, the tribunal’s judgment concluded that her claims lacked substantiation. The decision underscores the importance of a thorough examination of evidence. Further, noting the need for clear documentation in workplace discrimination cases.
As organizations continue to prioritise diversity and inclusion, cases like these prompt a reflection on the processes in place to address discrimination allegations. While Shivali Patel’s case did not result in a favourable outcome for her, it serves as a reminder that each case should be carefully examined, considering all available evidence and perspectives.