An ex-employee is suing a litter enforcement firm, claiming he was sacked for blowing the whistle after allegedly being told to target ethnic minorities with fines.
Gary Forrester, 39, told an employment tribunal staff were under “daily threat” of being fired if they did not issue enough fixed penalty notices (FPNs) and were told to go after minorities because they were unlikely to challenge penalties and were less inclined to understand UK law.
In a witness statement provided to the tribunal, the former team manager, who was stationed in the London borough of Barnet, said his boss issued the order after becoming “frustrated and angry” when staff could not issue more littering and fly-tipping penalties for legitimate reasons, East London Employment Tribunal heard on Wednesday.
He also alleged that his contractor, Kingdom Services Group, would encourage staff to work in other boroughs that had contracts with the firm while still charging the local authorities they were supposed to in – in his words “double or triple-billing” the councils involved.
The ex-employee claims he was wrongfully dismissed because Kingdom used allegations of racist and transphobic posts in a staff WhatsApp group as an “excuse” to sack him for what he claims were protected disclosures - something which he denies.
Mr Forrester is hoping to have his job back, providing the Kingdom chief executive issues him an apology and assurances the alleged practices will stop, or compensation and reimbursement of costs as an alternative option.
He also claims he was a victim of direct race discrimination, the tribunal heard.
In a response document presented to the tribunal, Kingdom’s lawyers disputed the claim Mr Forrester was a whistleblower who was unfairly dismissed and denied ever targeting ethnic minorities.
The firm said: “Any disclosures which were made were made cynically in order to attempt to prevent a legitimate disciplinary process and were therefore not in good faith.”
It added the firm had a whistleblowing procedure and investigates “robustly” and “adheres fully” to protecting people who make protected disclosures.
A Barnet Council spokesperson said: “We are aware of one of allegations and this has already been investigated by our Corporate Anti-Fraud Team.
“However, there is some new information we have been made aware of that we will now investigate and as such cannot comment further at this time.”
This isn’t the first time that concerns have been raised about Kingdom; in January 2019, whistle-blowers told The Guardian that the firm resorts to “aggressive and intimidating tactics” to issue fines for minor offences including littering and dog-fouling,
The latest revelations comes after racial disparities in the issuing of police fines under Coronavirus regulations were revealed a few months ago.
Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people were at least 50 per cent more likely to receive coronavirus lockdown fines in England than those who were white between March 27 and June 8 .
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies