Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Sellafield HR Boss ‘Sat On’ Sexual Harassment, Claims Whistleblower

Sellafield HR Boss ‘Sat On’ Sexual Harassment, Claims Whistleblower

Consultant Alison McDermott claims her contract was terminated when she blew the whistle on workplace harassment at the site in Seascale, Cumbria, in 2018.

Her claims are against Sellafield, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and HR director Heather Roberts.

She alleges her work ended when she produced a report on the HR department.

The hearing in Leeds is expected to last three weeks.

Ms. McDermott, who runs company Interim Diversity Limited, was contracted to work at the nuclear fuel reprocessing and decommissioning site with the remit of equality, diversity and inclusion.

She told the hearing in Leeds she was “extremely concerned about issues I was unearthing in the HR function” and said one employee was allegedly at risk of suicide.

‘Legacy of cover-up’

The tribunal heard Ms. McDermott spoke to Ms. Roberts about an anonymous report alleging sexual harassment which was made through Safecall, a confidential reporting system.

Ms. McDermott said the report also described a “legacy of cover-up” around multiple allegations.

In her witness statement, Ms. McDermott said Ms. Roberts told her: “I’ve sat on this for weeks.”

Deshpal Panesar QC, representing Sellafield and Ms Roberts, asked Ms. McDermott if she accepted the Safecall report had only been received by Ms. Roberts days before the conversation in September 2018, to which she agreed.

However, the consultant said Ms. Roberts admitted the problem had been known about for weeks and said she had taken no action.

She claimed Ms. Roberts then asked her to take part in a covert investigation to “flush out” issues raised in the report, but she refused and advised her there needed to be a formal investigation.

Mr. Panesar suggested she had agreed to take part in an undercover investigation, using focus groups to question staff.

Employment judge Philip Lancaster told the tribunal: “This, of course, is not a public inquiry into an alleged toxic culture at Sellafield and it is certainly not a forum to investigate specific allegations of improper behaviour on behalf of named individuals.”

He said the panel would be concerned with identifying what disclosures were made by Ms. McDermott and what was said or done in response.