NHS Tavistock manager was sacked fairly, tribunal hears

Manager at controversial gender clinic NHS Tavistock was sacked after hugging his boss and telling white colleagues ‘all northerners are racist’, tribunal hears

  • Olufemi Obilieye accused a white colleague of racism before he was fired
  • Mr Obilieye was senior contracts and performance manager at an NHS trust
  • The tribunal heard Mr Obilieye was sacked after he undermined his boss 
  • Mr Obilieye tried to sue the NHS trust where he had worked since August 2018
  • Employment Judge Harjit Grewal dismissed his claim of race discrimination

A senior manager at an NHS trust was sacked after telling white colleagues all northerners are racist, asking a colleague if he could kiss her and undermining his boss, a tribunal has heard.

Olufemi Obilieye, who describes himself as black African, unjustly accused a white colleague of racism and said he made the comment because ‘everybody who came from the north of Watford is racist’.

Mr Obilieye was later fired from his role as a senior contracts and performance manager at Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust – a north London based specialist mental health trust which includes a controversial gender identity development service.

The tribunal heard Mr Obilieye was sacked after he undermined his boss, hugged her against her wishes, was rude about another colleague, exacerbated the anxiety suffered by another worker, and made someone else uncomfortable by asking whether he could kiss her.

But Mr Obilieye sued the NHS trust for racial discrimination, a claim that was later dismissed by an employment tribunal. 

Olufemi Obilieye, who describes himself as black African, unjustly accused a white colleague of racism and said he made the comment because ‘everybody who came from the north of Watford is racist’. Pictured, NHS Tavistock

The tribunal heard Mr Obilieye worked in a small and racially diverse team that was responsible for managing contracts for the trust.

However, he upset white colleague Drew Davies by accusing him of being racist ‘simply because he was from the North’, it was said.

Mr Davies objected to being called racist and one of the senior bosses arranged a meeting with the two men.

The tribunal said: ‘At the meeting Mr Obilieye accepted that he had made the comment on the basis that “everybody who came from north of Watford was racist”.’

He then apologised to Mr Davies who in turn accepted the apology.

The tribunal heard Mr Obilieye went on to make comments to Mr Davies about his weight, his wife and his seniority.

Mr Davies said Mr Obilieye referred to him as the office junior and said things like ‘I think you’re confused’, or ‘do as I say’.

The tribunal heard Mr Obilieye also claimed his boss Amy Le Good had behaved in a racist manner by telling him in a meeting that he wrote in ‘high level English’.

Mr Obilieye said this comment made it clear to him he was ‘dealing with racism, a stereotype that a black man should not be in certain way, appear smart, knowledgeable and able to relate at very senior level’.

But his own secret recordings of this conversation revealed he was the one who said ‘high level English’, not his boss.

The tribunal was told on another occasion he made Ms Le Good uncomfortable by hugging her on his birthday after she had made it clear she did not want the hug.

And Mr Obilieye repeatedly made comments about how beautiful Ms Le Good’s hair looked which made her feel uncomfortable and she asked him to stop making comments about her appearance.

The tribunal heard Mr Obilieye also claimed his boss Amy Le Good (pictured) had behaved in a racist manner by telling him in a meeting that he wrote in ‘high level English’

Another female colleague, Pia Pedersen, was also made to feel uncomfortable by Mr Obilieye when he kept asking if he should kiss her.

The London Central Employment Tribunal heard: ‘There was an incident when Mr Obilieye was coming down with a cold and Ms Pedersen said that she did not want to catch it and he had come and stood over her repeatedly saying “shall I kiss you?”‘

After being fired for his behaviour in October 2019, Mr Obilieye tried to sue the NHS trust where he had worked since August 2018.

But Employment Judge Harjit Grewal dismissed his claim of race discrimination.

She said: ‘Mr Obilieye’s case in essence was that Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust went through all these processes because it wanted to get rid of him because of race. All the evidence before us pointed in the other direction.

‘Ms Le Good, who started the capability process and made some of the complaints that led to the disciplinary action, was the person who interviewed Mr Obilieye and selected him for the role because she thought he was the best candidate.

‘It made no sense that, having recruited a black African into the role, Ms Le Good would try and get rid of him a few months later because he was black African.

‘Ms Le Good managed a diverse team and none of them suggested that she had treated them less favourably because of race.’

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