Single mother soldier awarded £17,000 for discrimination

Tilern DeBique:  Single mother soldier 'within her rights to miss  training' over childcare

A single mother soldier who was claiming £1 million for race and sex discrimination against the Ministry of Defence has been awarded £17,016 by an employment tribunal.

Tilern DeBique, 28, from Tooting, south London, who was reported to have been seeking £1 million, argued that she was expected to be available for duty ”24/7, 365 days a year”.

Panel chairman Jeremy Gordon said the former corporal, from the Caribbean island of St Vincent, was not treated ”on a level playing field” with other soldiers.

An earlier hearing at the Central London Employment Tribunal was told that Ms DeBique was disciplined by the Army after missing a military parade to care for her daughter.

The panel heard she was told by a senior officer that the British Army was “a war-fighting machine unsuitable for a single mother who couldn’t sort out her childcare arrangements”.

She left the Army in April 2008, after submitting her resignation a year earlier. Mr Gordon said the fact that immigration rules prevented her half-sister from moving to the UK permanently to help with childcare was discriminatory. He said: “The net result was, as the complainant put it, she was not on a level playing field with soldiers with family in the UK.”

He told the hearing that, if an exception had been made, her career could have continued. He said: “We found that such an exception would have put foreign and Commonwealth soldiers, and particularly the complainant, on a level playing field with soldiers with families who have the right of abode in the UK.” Mr Gordon said the prospect of leaving the Services had taken its toll on Ms DeBique. He said: “We heard from more than one witness how she seemed to withdraw into herself and was tearful at meetings.”

Ms DeBique had to see a psychiatrist at one point and was prescribed anti-depressants, the hearing was told. Mr Gordon said: “To the complainant, it appeared from the way she was being dealt with that the Army no longer wanted her in service.” But he criticised her for refusing a posting to her regiment’s base in Blandford, Dorset, saying it was “a mistake”.

The hearing was told the base had a school and better childcare arrangements than Chelsea Barracks where she had been based, but she had still turned it down. He said: “She had lost faith in the Army and also lost hope in the system.” He also said she had not done enough to find a new job since returning to civilian life and did not award her compensation for loss of earnings. Earlier, the tribunal was told that Ms DeBique, who joined 10 Signal Regiment in March 2001, had expressed interest in other military positions, including two in Afghanistan, before leaving the Army. The tribunal was told Ms DeBique had worked in temporary jobs after leaving the Army but was currently unemployed and had fallen behind on her £80-a-week rent for a room in shared accommodation.  A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “We have noted the award made by the employment tribunal and we wish Tilern DeBique the best for the future.”

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