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Returning police dog amounted to discrimination

In Keohane v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis a tribunal found that the Metropolitan Police had directly discriminated against a female dog handler who was required to return a police dog during maternity leave, which damaged her career progression and denied her opportunities for overtime upon return.

WPC Keohane is a narcotics police dog handler. She kept the two dogs allocated to her, Borg Warf and Nunki Pippin, at her at home in line with normal practice. When Keohane said she was expecting her second child she was told she could keep Borg Warf, but had to return Nunki Pippin as this was the second occasion within 17 months that she had given notice of pregnancy, the dog was needed to meet operational needs and it had been inactive for 9 months during Keohane’s first pregnancy. She claimed direct discrimination on the basis that the reallocation of Nunki Pippin would have a negative affect her role as a narcotics dog handler on her return to work in terms of career progression and the ability to work overtime, as she would have to establish a handling relationship with a new dog.

A tribunal found that Keohane had shown a clear connection between her pregnancy and the employer’s decision, which had led to unfavorable treatment. This included the reference to this being Keohane’s second pregnancy and that the dog had been inactive during her first period of maternity leave. As the Police had failed to show that its decision had not been primarily as a result of Keohane’s pregnancy and maternity leave, the direct discrimination claim succeeded and she was awarded £11,500 in compensation.

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