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‘Whistleblower’ says legal battle with nuclear site owners ‘almost broke me’

A consultant who claims she was dismissed by Sellafield for exposing failures to address a “toxic” working culture has been granted an appeal against her employment tribunal loss.

Yorkshire Post, By Nathan Hyde, 23 Oct 22,

Equality and diversity consultant Alison McDermott said her contract at the nuclear processing plant ended after she wrote a damning “whistleblowing” report about the human resources (HR) leadership team, claiming they had failed to address complaints about bullying and harassment.

After refusing a £160,000 settlement, she took her case to an employment tribunal. But Employment Judge Philip Lancaster dismissed her claim and ruled she was not a whistleblower, following a hearing in Leeds.

She was then ordered to pay £40,000 to help cover the legal costs of Sellafield Ltd and its parent company – the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

Ms McDermott, from Burley in Wharfedale, has been granted an appeal and she is now raising money to cover her legal costs, ahead of the next hearing in January.

Her legal team have challenged the ruling, but also criticised the judge for refusing to look at the alleged “toxic culture” at Sellafield and alleged failure of the HR team. They said this provides vital context, as it explains Ms McDermott’s decision to become a whistleblower.

“I am doing everything I can because I’m really concerned about what’s going on at Sellafield,” she said………………………………

Ms McDermott signed a two-day-a-week contract with Sellafield Ltd to work as a consultant in equality and diversity at the nuclear fuel reprocessing and decommissioning site in September 2018.

After taking on the role, looked into allegations of sexual harrasment and homophobic abuse.

She also recieved an anonymous letter claiming “serious problems” about sexual harassment “are being ignored”.

The following month, she compiled a report on the HR leadership team, saying they were viewed as “broken and dysfunctional”

 by some staff and failing to effectively deal with allegations of harassment and bullying.

Shortly after filing the report, she was told her £1,500-a-day contract would be terminated due to “funding constraints”.

But during the tribunal, Sellafield’s lawyers said it was because the report, which had cost around £12,000, was “questionable and insubstantial” and “lacked any meaningful analysis”.

According to the ruling, the judge accepted the funding constraints excuse was used to allow Ms McDermott to leave “with her head held high”.

He ruled she was not a whistleblower, because she could not make any “disclosures” which are protected under UK employment law.

Sellafield Ltd, which has previously stated it is committed to eradicating bullying and harassment, has been approached for comment.


October 23, 2022 - Posted by | Legal, UK

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