Cabinet secretary Simon Case and civil service chief operating officer Alex Chisholm are among four named officials in an employment tribunal discrimination case being brought by a former Treasury civil servant, it has emerged.
Rowaa Ahmar has lodged two claims of direct discrimination and harassment on the grounds of sex and race – and victimisation. As well as Case and Chisholm, her claim names the Cabinet Office itself, Cabinet Office chief operating officer Sarah Harrison, and Michael Bourke as respondents.
Ahmar was nominated for a Civil Service Diversity and Inclusion Award in 2020. Her citation includes establishing a parents’ network in the Treasury at the start of the pandemic lockdowns, setting up a race workstream for HMT's 300 analysts, and mentoring.
Ahmar’s discrimination case came to light with the publication of a preliminary hearing judgment yesterday. It revealed that Case, Chisholm and Harrison had sought to be removed as respondents in the proceedings on the grounds that they had been “wrongly included”.
Tribunal judge Tony McGrade refused the application, but said it was “clear” that the part allegedly played by the three in Ahmar’s claim was “relatively minor”.
The judge said Ahmar had made no allegations against Case, Chisholm or Harrison as perpetrators of discrimination. He added that all three of Ahmar’s references to Case related to incidents after she had left the civil service.
However, McGrade said Ahmar’s second discrimination application said she resigned “because of what she believes to be the failures of all three respondents, which included breaking the rules, to retaliate against her”. He was specifically referring to Case, Chisholm and Harrison.
“It is clear that many of the allegations against these individuals involve omissions rather actions carried out by them,” McGrade said. “However, at this stage, I must take the claimant’s case at its highest and it was not argued that none of the claims against an individual respondent could succeed, but simply that the allegations against them indicated that they performed peripheral roles in the events giving rise to the claims.”
Civil Service World understands that neither Case nor Chisholm have ever met Ahmar in person.
Ahmar’s full employment tribunal is not expected to be heard for several months.
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said the department did not tolerate bullying, harassment or discrimination and that any complaints were taken extremely seriously.
“There are clear procedures in place to ensure that complaints are handled with sensitivity and fairness,” the spokesperson said.
“We are defending these claims and cannot comment further on an ongoing employment tribunal.”