A Devon paramedic, who dedicated 26 years of her life to the ambulance service and ended up overseeing a team of 130 staff, had her career ended by sexist remarks, victimisation, bullying and harassment at work.

Carol King, from Bideford, was an employee of the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT). She started her career as a patient transport assistant, before training to become a paramedic and eventually a substantive operations manager for the Devon trust. 

Ms King and other female colleagues raised concerns with management that they were dealing with sexist remarks, bullying and harassment, in Ms King’s case from her manager.  She also, as a member of UNISON raised the issue with her local UNISON branch. 

An external HR consultant was brought in to investigate, yet when the Trust’s chief executive met with Ms King in April 2017 to discuss the findings almost all her complaints and concerns were rejected.

An image of a woman holding a chicken
Carol King, pictured on her farm

Ms King knew that what she was regularly witnessing and experiencing wasn’t right and she pursued further internal appeals. When nothing was done to address her concerns she resigned in late 2017 and turned to her union, UNISON, and Thompsons Solicitors to ensure that the Trust was made to face up to its failings.

Ms King said: “I know that what I went through day to day and then the stress I suffered for whistleblowing on the culture we had to work in will not go away, it will be with me for life. I have developed a career elsewhere but I hope that by pursuing the issue after I felt I had no option but to leave has raised awareness of the archaic culture that existed at SWASFT.

“All I ever wanted was better treatment for the staff.”

Ms King’s employers tried to close her claim down by arguing that she was out of time as she had missed the deadline for employment tribunals – where you must lodge a claim no more than three months after the act of discrimination. 

With UNISON and Thompsons supporting her, Ms King kept on with the litigation arguing it was “just and equitable” to extend the time limit because the grievance process was itself extended and she eventually won her claim on appeal.  She secured over £8,000 in compensation.

Carol King continued: “I am hugely grateful to Thompsons Solicitors and the female barrister on the case. They believed in me and understood where I was coming from. It was like they took it personally and, in the end, justice prevailed.”

Lisa Reynolds, at Thompsons Solicitors, added: “Carol was victimised for raising concerns about a culture of sexism affecting both her and her colleagues – a stand that we should all applaud. 

“Carol won her claim on just and equitable grounds meaning that in line with the principles of justice the appeal tribunal found it was morally right and fair that she should. There is a lesson here for any employer who thinks they can escape responsibility for their systematic failings by hiding behind technical legal challenges.”

An image of a woman stood by a landrover