Future faces of discrimination

A specialist lawyer in the discrimination field believes the future pattern of claims over discrimination is set for change. She envisages an increase in the number of 'white v black' and 'male v female' claims.

At the same time though, she stresses that claims based on sex rather than race discrimination predominate.

After her involvement in one high profile claim in which a white female nursery worker won a £10,000 discrimination pay-out over racist treatment by a black councillor, solicitor Amanda Croxon has little doubt that the case indicates a pattern for the future.

She believes the growing racial mix in the UK coupled with more women workers in key jobs will prompt a growth in discrimination claims by white workers and men.

"We are already seeing it happen to an extent," said Croxon, who cut her teeth in this field when working with Hillingdon Legal Resource Centre and who is now an associate solicitor with Uxbridge firm Turberville Woodbridge.

Croxon's experience in discrimination claims is extensive but the case of 35-year-old Brent nursery manager Jackie Griffiths marked a first for her.

Her client claimed she had been subjected to discrimination by Nigerian-born Mrs Nkechi Amalu-Johnson, a Brent councillor at the time who chaired the council's nursery management committee.

Griffiths was sacked on the basis of claims of "unsatisfactory conduct and dereliction of duties" after working at the nursery for four months.

But an industrial tribunal has awarded her £9,687 after finding the real reason for her job loss was race discrimination. They ruled she was treated "in a disgraceful manner".

Croxon thinks the ruling is a fair victory for her client. "There is a popular misconception that women cannot discriminate on grounds of sex and black people cannot discriminate on grounds of race," she said.

"That is not true. The legislation exists to protect everyone from discrimination whether black or white, male or female. All discrimination cases call for extremely sensitive handling irrespective of which sex or which race is bringing the claim."

She also warns that some claimants who have only been employed for a short time may attempt to use discrimination litigation to get round the two-year time limit which can block unfair dismissal claims. All lawyers who are faced by any kind of discrimination claim must be "wary" of such abuse Croxon said.

But once that hurdle is passed and a practitioner is satisfied a claim is genuine she believes the profession should not be shy in taking on cases irrespective of whether they involve white v black and male v female conflicts.