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Top solicitor calls for employment law reform after bound and gagged civil servant loses tribunal claim

EXCLUSIVE

TOP solicitor Michael Newman called for a shake-up of employment law today after  Scottish civil servant DeeAnn Fitzpatrick, who was bound and gagged at work, lost her tribunal claim.

Fisheries officer Ms Fitzpatrick brought a bullying and harassment case to the Aberdeen employment tribunal after blowing the whistle on a campaign of anonymous abusive cards at Marine Scotland.

The tribunal said yesterday it could not agree on whether the cards were likely to have come from current colleagues.

Ms Fitzpatrick said she felt intimidated and harassed over her sex, age and Canadian nationality. She started receiving abusive cards in 2015 while she was based in the government agency’s Scrabster office. The abuse continued after she was signed off sick in late 2016, the tribunal heard.

Ms Fitzpatrick also alleged that she was taped to a chair and gagged by colleagues in 2010. She said the horrific incident was a warning against speaking out, and that a manager had told her that “boys will be boys” when she attempted to report it.

But this could not be considered because it took place more than three years before the complaint was brought.

Mr Newman, a partner at law firm Leigh Day who acted for blacklisted construction workers in their successful claims for compensation, said it was time to consider whether to lift the time limitation on serious employment abuses.

He said it was “sensible to have some sort of limitation period” for most employment cases.

But he argued that the principle used in criminal law, where offences as serious as murder and rape are exempt from statutes of limitations, could be extended.

“There’s no reason why employment law can’t adopt a similar approach,” he told the Star, saying that a longer time limit was another option.

“That would show that we as a society saw these particular things as so serious that you have an extra degree of protection.”

Ms Fitzpatrick’s family issued a statement saying they were “hugely disappointed with the result of the tribunal,” while adding that the result was “not unexpected” due to the time limit.

When the shocking images of the gagging and binding first came to light, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she had directed her government's permanent secretary Leslie Evans to carry out a review of the case.

Conrad Landin is the Morning Star’s Scotland Editor.

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