LONDON: Britain's Indian-origin Home Secretary Priti Patel is facing legal action after a former top civil servant in her department lodged an employment tribunal claim on Monday for "unfair (constructive) dismissal" against the government.
Philip Rutnam, Permanent Secretary in the department led by Patel, had claimed a "vicious and orchestrated campaign" against him and pointed the finger of blame at her before stepping down.
"On 29 February 2020, Sir Philip Rutnam resigned as Permanent Secretary of the Home Office, indicating that he intended to pursue a claim of constructive dismissal," said Dave Penman, General Secretary of the FDA civil servants' union.
"This morning [Monday], Sir Philip, with the support of his legal team and Philip Rutname FDA, submitted a claim to the employment tribunal for unfair (constructive) dismissal and whistleblowing against the Home Secretary. Sir Philip will not be making any further comment at this time," he said.
The FDA said it has instructed Gavin Mansfield of Littleton Chambers and employment law specialist as barrister, supported by Clive Howard, Senior Principal Lawyer, Employment and Partnership, at Slater and Gordon.
This would mark the first case of its kind under the UK's whistleblowing laws, brought against a UK Home Secretary and the minister and her aides may have to be called in as witnesses.
"We do not comment on ongoing legal proceedings," a UK government spokesperson said.
While Patel has not publicly commented on Rutnam's allegations in his resignation statement, in an email to Home Office staff in the aftermath of the row the minister said she regretted Rutnam's exit.
She said she "deeply cared" about the "wellbeing" of her civil servants and valued their professionalism, adding that it was time for the Home Office to come together "as one team".
In his statement at the time, Rutnam had alleged that he had received complaints against Patel's conduct, which included "shouting and swearing, belittling people, making unreasonable and repeated demands, behaviour that created fear and needed some bravery to call out."
The career bureaucrat also claimed Patel had made no effort to engage with him to discuss a flurry of claims and counter-claims emerging from the Home Office in the days leading up to his dramatic resignation.
A UK Cabinet Office investigation was launched last month over whether Patel had breached the ministerial code, amid several allegations of bullying against the minister.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had offered Patel his full support at the time.
"I think she's a fantastic Home Secretary. Anybody who's been Home Secretary will testify that is one of the toughest jobs in government," he said at the time.