Compensation for teaching assistant dismissed at the height of the Windrush scandal
A teaching assistant who lost her job after being branded an illegal immigrant by her employer during the height of the Windrush scandal has been awarded £20,829 in compensation for discrimination.
The Employment Tribunal found that the school directly discriminated against the employee who worked as a teaching assistant for the school from 2015 until her dismissal in April 2018, after it accused her of being an illegal immigrant, forging her passport and “evading the authorities” to stay in the UK.
The tribunal heard that the employee was born in the US to an African American mother and a Scottish father, and that she holds American nationality. Her mother brought her to England when she was four or five in either 1981 or 1982. On entry into the UK, she was given indefinite leave to remain (ILR). The employee’s mother died when she was aged 12, and she was placed into care where she remained until she was 18.
In 2018, while working for a primary school, she was asked to go through a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check. Before then, she had worked as a teaching assistant for 15 years and had completed many DBS checks.
The employee produced a number of documents including her expired American passport, which contained her ILR stamp, a copy of her tenancy agreement and her tax code. She was informed that, even though she had an ILR stamp in her passport, it was no longer valid. The employee argued that it could not expire – its very definition was “indefinite leave to remain”. She was informed that she had a lack of evidence to continue to prove her right to live and work in the United Kingdom”. She was suspended. At a subsequent disciplinary hearing, the HR representative told her she was an illegal immigrant and that the documents she had provided were “fake”. She was dismissed.
The employee brought claims of unfair dismissal and race discrimination against her employer and the tribunal unanimously ruled that she was directly discriminated against by both the school and the local authority because of her nationality.
In her ruling, the Judge said “prejudicial and false preconceptions” were made about the Claimant’s immigration status because of her nationality. She said her employer had assumed “her to be dishonest and illegally in the country”.
The tribunal ordered the school and council to pay Sims £20,828.71 for injury to feelings.