· News

Female firearms officer wins £30,000 in sexism case

Rebecca Kalam was made to strip down to her underwear during training -

Senior firearms officer Rebecca Kalam won £30,000 in case for sex discrimination and harassment after being given unsuitable equipment, ordered to strip into underwear during training and being forced to be the ‘poster girl’ for her unit.

The officer has been medically retired as a result of the ordeal, and the Birmingham tribunal found she would have made the rank of superintendent if it were not for the mistreatment. 

In March 2012, Kalam was made to strip down to act as a ‘stooge’ in a mock training exercise by having her clothes cut off and stripped down to her underwear so that first aid could be given.

The scenario was based on a bullet hole on the top of the left breast, which officers would then have to treat in the training session.

The tribunal heard Kalam felt ‘extremely uncomfortable’. 

Police officer unfairly dismissed over sexist fitness test

In the same month, Kalam was doing press ups as part of training, and a male trainer pushed her down with his foot on the back of her neck and said ‘just because you have t*ts does not mean you cannot do a press up’. 

Katie Hodson, head of employment at law firm SAS Daniels, said employers who don’t take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment are liable for harassment by their employees.  

She told HR magazine: “With the passing of the Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) 2023 last month, from 2024, employers will be under an even stricter duty to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. 

“It is essential that employers have in place effective policies and make all staff aware of the policies. However, the danger with any policy is that they themselves become tokens and remain static.  

“Therefore, policies relating to sexual harassment in the workplace should not just be drafted and then left to gather dust on the company system or intranet but actively implemented and refresher training on how to prevent instances of harassment provided.”  

How can we encourage more men to be involved in DEI practices? 

The West Midlands Police firearms unit also failed to provide Kalam with suitable PPE, handcuffs and body armour suited to the female body. 

Hodson siad: “Failing to order and provide PPE suitable for female staff in workplaces where this is an essential requirement of the job is seen as sex discrimination and will result in female staff feeling isolated and undervalued when compared to their male colleagues.  

In 2012, she was also made the poster girl for the Firearms Operations Unit and told she would not pass training if she disagreed. 

She was also required to pose for a photo shoot when five months pregnant in 2016. 

Hodsen said the unit wanted to create an inclusive image, which she argued was far from the reality. 

She said: “Kalam was made the ‘poster girl’ for the Firearms Operation Unit. However, the other activities she was pressured to participate in, comments and treatment she was subjected to demonstrate a culture that in reality was far from the inclusive image the Police force wanted to project.” 

"Whilst employers understandably want to project themselves as inclusive and diverse, it is a mistake for HR to create an artificially diverse workforce for example by hiring to tick boxes or quotas.  

“Instead, organisations should consider strategies such as ensuring job descriptions appeal to diverse candidates, utilising recruitment agencies and platforms that attract underrepresented groups and using pre-employment assessments based on skills and abilities not background.”