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Sonographer made to do menial work wins £33,000 in racism tribunal

Tina Dilibe was required to clean the clinic and told that if she did not, her immigration sponsorship would end

A sonographer from Nigeria who was forced to carry out cleaning duties despite her medical role was a victim of racial harassment and constructive dismissal, a tribunal has found.

Tina Dilibe was hired to be a sonographer at Window to the Womb in Swansea, a private ultrasound clinic by directors Anthony Woodcock and Juliet Luporini.

Dilibe is a qualified black African sonographer, and was recruited from Nigeria in March 2021.

The clinic decided to recruit a sonographer from Nigeria as Nigerian sonographer qualifications are similar to those in the UK.

However in December 2021, Dilibe handed in her resignation complaining of “unfavourable working conditions which I am no longer able to cope with”.

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The tribunal heard that Dilibe was required to clean the clinic and told that if she did not, her immigration sponsorship would end. In the judgement, Judge Sharp said there was no evidence a non-black African sonographer has ever been asked to undertake general cleaning in the Swansea clinic or as part of the wider Window to the Womb group.

Judge Sharp added: "[Dilibe] was required to carry out delicate scans looking at and advising worried pregnant women about their babies. Yet she was treated as someone who could be forced to mop and vacuum floors, when there were three other individuals in the clinic whose role was to support the sonographer and the clinic, who used to do such cleaning before the claimant’s arrival."

Keely Rushmore, employment partner at Keystone Law, told HR magazine that the clinic’s poor treatment of staff hired from Nigeria amounted to discrimination.

She said: “Here, the employment tribunal, mindful that discrimination is rarely overt, reviewed the circumstances leading to the claimant’s departure from the company in detail. 

“It concluded that there was a “troubling pattern of behaviour”, namely that sonographers could be hired from Nigeria, forced to carry menial tasks inconsistent with their professional status with any resistance from them not well-received.”

The tribunal also found directors at Window to the Womb raised unfounded concerns about Dilibe’s allegedly bad ‘attitude’ and body odour, extending her probation twice, in breach of her contract. These concerns were never stated by customers and Dilibe received positive reviews from clinical leads.

Dilibe was also often put on unreasonable work patterns, such as 13 days work in a row, leaving her exhausted.

Rushmore said: “The overall picture led to the tribunal’s conclusion that the burden of proof had shifted; it was for the respondents to explain why none of these matters were because of or related to the claimant’s race, something that they struggled to do. 

“The references to the claimant’s sponsorship were found not to be merely a reference to her immigration status, but rather references to the fact that she was Nigerian and that she could be threatened with termination of her sponsorship. The tribunal did not consider that a white Australian on a Tier 2 visa would have been treated in the same way as the claimant was treated.”

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Following the sonographer's resignation in December 2021, Woodcock demanded she repay her recruitment costs in full within 24 hours. She was sent an invoice for £5,975.25 and threatened with immediate legal action if she did not pay it.

Other breaches included unlawful deduction of wages and unpaid annual leave entitlement.

The clinic was ordered to pay Dilibe £28,915 for the racial harassment and direct race discrimination, £2,538 for the unauthorised deduction of wages and £2,157 for unpaid annual leave.