An employment tribunal where a black former scientist at a top engineering firm claimed his career was held back at the company because it had a preference for “blond-haired blue-eyed boys” has resumed in Birmingham after a four-month break.
Randolph Palmer of Kings Road, Stockland Green, claims he was a victim of race discrimination and was unfairly dismissed after being selected for redundancy at Ove Arup, based in Solihull.
The tribunal got underway in March this year but was adjourned until July, reconvening with the cross examination of Mr Palmer by counsel for Ove Arup Paul Gurnham. The company has strongly denied Mr Palmer’s claims.
Mr Palmer was an environmental scientist for almost ten years at Arup and worked in the infrastructure planning Midlands department (IPM) at its Midland campus on the Blythe Valley Business Park.
After five years he was promoted to associate grade but two years later he said his career took an about-turn after he questioned why he had not been promoted further.
He claimed he was “discriminated against almost continuously” by a Caucasian director John O’Jeil.
Mr Palmer said matters came to a head in 2008 during an appraisal with his line manager Debbie Bunce when they discussed his promotion prospects.
He said he was told Mr O’Jeil had said he was “not the right man for promotion”.
When he challenged Mr O’Jeil, Mr Palmer alleged he replied his career had “gone as far as it would go” as the firm had “a preference for blond-haired blue-eyed boys”.
Under cross examination Mr Palmer claimed he was the victim of “institutional racism” at the company as his carer progression was halted and subsequent grievance claims were not taken seriously by the company’s human resources department.
But Mr Gurnham challenged Mr Palmer’s description of Mr O’Jeil as “white Caucasian” saying that he was of Lebanese descent and described himself as a “British Arab”.
Mr Gurnham added Mr O’Jeil denied he had ever made the “blond-haired blue-eyed boys” comment and asked Mr Palmer if he genuinely believed there was “some glass ceiling for ethnic minorities at Arup”.