Tribunal claim won by female police officer after being subjected to diet comments

After comments from her boss to stop drinking gallons of coke, a police officer has won her claim for harassment.

Detective Constable Kerry Moth claimed she was overweight due to the medication she was taking to lesson the symptoms of her illnesses. Ms Moth became ill with several conditions including visceral hyperalgesia (regional pain syndrome) and depression. Later she contracted fibromyalgia.

The tribunal heard how Ms Moth joined the police force in 2003 and was stationed in Barnstaple, Devon.

The Bradford scoring system, which was used at the time by the police HR department, brought Ms Moth’s sickness record to the attention of her managers. The frequency of her absences then came under scrutiny by the Devon and Cornwall Police.

A succession of action plans was drawn up for Ms Moth after 2016. All the plans involved her line managers and occupational health in order to support Ms Moth in her work and to attempt to reduce her absences.

Although the Bradford system is no longer used, the Tribunal heard that the scoring system looked at ‘absent days multiplied by the number of occasions absent, squared.’

The Bradford scoring system was based on the principal that one extended absence is better than intermittent absences.

In December 2018 DS Marvelly her manager received an attendance flag. She and Ms Moth met. Ms Moth told her manager that she wanted to see the force medical advisor. Her reason was to see if she would be able to work from home when she was not well. Ms Moth stated that people who had childcare responsibilities were permitted to do this.

DS Marvelly and Ms Moth further discussed the fitness tests that officers are required to take. They set out further pans for her future in the force.

The occupational health team informed managers early in 2019 that Ms Moth was disabled under the terms of the Equality Act, even though she was deemed fit to continue in her current role. She was also deemed fit to assist other officers and make arrests.

Managers were informed that Ms Moth was not fit to undergo any self defence skills which takes place during officer safety training. She was not fit to work night shift or handle equipment such as handcuffs or batons.

Another subject which was addressed was ill health retirement, with Prof Harrison stating that this would not be addressed until ‘all reasonable adjustments and deployment had been considered.’

After these discussions DS Marvelly told Ms Moth that he planned to refer her to a nutritionist. He wanted to know if she would be able to take the fitness test if she were to lose weight.

DS Marvelly brought up the subject a second time at a case conference meeting on 4th March 2019. He suggested that making changes to her diet might help her from a fitness perspective.

On July 9th, DS Marvelly again stated at a meeting that Ms Moth should ‘take more responsibility for her diet.’ Other staff members would have more respect for her if they saw her trying to lose weight.

At the meeting Ms Moth stated that the medication she was taking had side effects of weight gain to which DS Marvelly replied that she drank coke and that was bad for her.

Ms Moth replied that he drank alcohol which is also bad for one. Marvelly replied that she drank gallons of coke.

Ms Moth told the tribunal that she only drank zero or low-calorie coke.

The tribunal ruled that they had little doubt that the experience had been extremely humiliating for Ms Moth. DS Marvelly should not have commented on her diet because this had already been discussed by Ms Moth and the occupational health team.

Judge Alastair Smail commented that Ms Moth was harassed by DS Marvelly’s comments and was humiliated. The force had ‘failed to make any reasonable adjustments regarding her disability.’

The judge concluded that subjecting Ms Moth to unfair treatment related to the officer fitness training was also a breach of the Equality Act.

A remedy hearing will be set up to decide the amount of compensation Ms Moth will receive.


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