A former nurse has won a huge compensation claim at an employment tribunal in Exeter.
Clare Sardari, 57, will receive £230,000 in damages from South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust after a judge agreed she was ‘bullied, threatened and intimidated’ by her superiors in an effort to prevent her whistleblowing about her boss Dr Paula Vasco-Knight’s decision to promote her own daughter’s boyfriend to the role of Diversity Manager without him having fairly obtained the position.
Ms Sardari made the whistleblowing claim alongside colleague, Penny Gates, 53. Together they took their concerns to senior employee, Adrienne Murphy, who responded that the pair should expect to lose their jobs ‘through dirty means’ if they did not stop asking questions.
The tribunal ruled that Ms Sardari was made to feel alienated for making the claim which led her to suffer detriment as a result. The actions of Dr Vasco-Knight also came under scrutiny at the tribunal as she was proven to have deliberately tried preventing the release of materials showing her wrongdoing. Although Dr Vasco-Knight denied all of these claims, she then abruptly resigned from her position at Torbay hospital in Devon shortly afterwards.
At the tribunal Dr Vasco-Knight claimed that Ms Sardari’s whisteblowing had all the hallmarks of a personal attack rather than an effort being made to correct a genuine wrong. In a statement she claimed “on a personal level I found the allegations as nothing less than personal slander and I wonder if a white middle-class male chief executive officer would have been treated with such disrespect.”
Ms Sardari left the Tribunal in tears following the ruling and refused to make any comment. Her colleague and fellow whistleblower, Mrs Gates, has returned to work at Torbay hospital under a separate settlement.
The tribunal ruling
Tribunal judge Nick Roper awarded Ms Saradi £228,000 in compensation; a figure that covers her back pay and pension benefits along with the legal costs and agreed damages she incurred.
The full amount will be paid by South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, which Dr Vasco-Knight was the chief executive of before her resignation. Her peers at the Trust paid tribute to her by releasing a statement about her time with the organisation shortly after the ruling which said “considerable success was achieved during her tenure. It is unfortunate her achievements have been overshadowed by the tribunal judgement”.
Describing the ruling, tribunal judge Nick Roper explained:
“We find that there was a concerted effort by the South Devon Healthcare Trust to manipulate the investigation, accuse the claimants of malice, suppress the report and to mislead the other parties as to its contents, with the apparent aim of protecting Dr Vasco-Knight and Mrs Murphy against the force of the claimant’s allegations […] This was completely contrary to the protection which they should have been offered under the Whistleblowing guidelines.”