Police officer sued force after colleague called him 'Dolly Parton'

Police officer who sued force after colleague called him ‘Dolly Parton’ because he only worked nine to five loses sex harassment claim

  • PC Stephen Knox complained after Dolly Parton photos stuck all over his desk
  • Colleague also whistled Parton’s ‘nine to five’ tune around their police station
  • He had permission to work the rota so he could provide care to disabled mother
  • His complaint over sex harassment thrown out by an employment tribunal panel 
  • But he has been awarded £12,000 for victimisation and disability harassment

A police officer who sued his forced after a colleague called him ‘Dolly Parton’ because he only worked nine to five has lost a sex harassment claim.

PC Stephen Knox, of Merseyside Police, complained after the officer covered his desk in A4-sized photographs of the US country singer and continually whistled her hit song at their station.

An employment tribunal heard PC Knox, a father-of-four, worked a specific 9am to 5pm rota to suit his childcare needs and to provide daily care for his elderly and disabled mother following the death of his father.

The long-serving officer, who had an ‘unblemished’ record for more than 13 years, took his force to a tribunal following the ‘banter’ by his colleague – named only as PC Rylands at the hearing.

But the claim of sexual harassment was thrown out by a tribunal panel as it was presented too late or without merit.

However, PC Knox has been awarded more than £12,000 for separate claims of victimisation and disability harassment. 

An employment tribunal panel heard how PC Knox was teased by PC Rylands between November 2016 and January 2017 when the pair – who were friends – were based at Speke Police Station in Liverpool.

PC Stephen Knox was teased by PC Rylands while the pair worked together at Speke Police Station (pictured) between November 2016 and January 2017

PC Knox successfully applied to transfer to Huyton Police Station, Merseyside, and was granted permission to work a strict 9am to 5pm rota in November 2016.

A tribunal report, published on Tuesday, said: ‘It struck [PC Rylands] as remarkable that PC Knox had been able to secure a nine to five shift pattern within the Target Team.

‘PC Rylands started teasing PC Knox good-naturedly, by making references to the famous Dolly Parton song, “9 To 5”.

‘He whistled the song in PC Knox’s presence and printed a picture of Dolly Parton to which he added the words “nine to five” and placed it on his workstation.’

The report said that PC Rylands was ‘pleased’ for his colleague and, ‘initially at least’ he was not challenged by PC Knox.

But PC Knox said he would intentionally leave or not enter a room if he knew his colleague was in there.

After moving to the Huyton office in January 2017, PC Knox felt out of place due to his work rota clashing with his colleagues’ and his mental health deteriorated.

The following month, he was signed off work on a lengthy period of sick leave – later  being diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and features of PTSD.

During his period of leave, PC Knox made a series of allegations relating to discrimination.

Dolly Parton (pictured), 76, wrote her ‘9 to 5’ hit song for the 1980 comedy film of the same name and it was released as a single that year

In October 2017, he said he received an ‘intimidating’ email threatening disciplinary procedures if he failed to attend his scheduled return to work date.

The tribunal panel concluded that the email amounted to disability harassment because it made him ‘feel fearful for the future of his employment and severely distressed’.

PC Knox also repeatedly requested backlogs of his work patterns, emails, and access to his work diaries during his leave, but said they were constantly delayed and he received ‘dismissive’ emails about them.

These incidents amounted to victimisation, the panel said.

His other claims, including sexual harassment for the Dolly Parton incidents, were dismissed as they were presented too late or without merit.

Parton, 76, wrote her ‘9 to 5’ hit song for the 1980 comedy film of the same name and it was released as a single that year.

Merseyside Police accepted PC Rylands behaved as alleged, but he denied calling his colleague ‘Dolly Parton’.

PC Knox was awarded £12,080 for his successful claims. He argued he should be awarded a total of £231,000.

He appealed to have the £12,080 fee reconsidered, but the tribunal has now refused the application.

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