Workplace harassment and gender discrimination most often affects women, but as one recent case involving the Metropolitan police department shows, men are sometimes also on the receiving end of this.
An employment tribunal ruling concluded that Chief Inspector Adrian Denby of Paddington Green Station, London, suffered sex discrimination on five occasions since 2014 at the hands of a female superior officer who was leading a nationwide effort to crack down on masculine behaviour within the force, to thus make the force “more attractive” to female staff. In recent years there have been a number of high profile cases involving alleged patriarchal control within the MET, which has harmed the equality ethos of the force.
Denby was first discriminated against in September 2014 when Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Maxine De Brunner, visited the Territorial Support Group (TSG) that Denby was responsible for managing at Paddington Green station, London. On this occasion De Brunner witnessed a male officer walking from the shower facilities wearing only a towel. Behaviour of this kind has been described as her ‘pet hate’ because it has been proven to of alienated and offended female staff in the past.
Denby faced an internal and criminal investigation over the incident, along with accusations of his improper behaviour regarding a range of other incidents, including unsubstantiated claims of him selling alcohol at the station, allowing staff to openly make homophobic comments, and ‘cheating hours’ by claiming overtime he had not performed. These accusations were made particularly difficult for Denby as his female counterpart at TSG saw no equivalent action get taken against her.
Not only did this treatment result in Denby feeling like a scapegoat for the supposed cultural failings of the TSG, but also caused distress because De Brunner had not considered the numerous improvements that he had personally made to the TSG throughout his employment.
Denby agreed that he should have not allowed male staff to walk semi-naked from the shower, but claims his decision to allow this was due only to the ‘poor design’ of the station’s showers.
Denby’s concerns proved justified, as the tribunal found him to be an “impressive and straightforward witness” who suffered from a clear case of sex discrimination. In contrast, De Brunner’s testimony was considered “not credible”.
The tribunal also took note of Denby’s outstanding past achievements as evidence of his good character, including his being awarded nine commendations, and how he recently travelled to Afghanistan to contribute to the creation of the Afghan police force.
Across the UK, a total of 62 sex discrimination claims have been made by men over the past five years, and this is only the seventh case to have actually won. However, despite Officer Denby’s success, a spokesman for the Met has stated that the police force now intends to fully appeal the tribunal decision: “We have carefully considered the judgement [and] have sought leave to appeal the findings.”
A damages hearing for Officer Denby is currently planned for October.