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Friday, 7 December, 2001, 17:58 GMT
Royal secretary loses race bias case
Elizabeth Burgess
Elizabeth Burgess was in tears at the tribunal
A former secretary of Prince Charles who claimed she was racially abused and forced out of her job has lost her claim of constructive dismissal.

Elizabeth Burgess, 39, said she was subjected to racist jokes and name-calling while working at the Highgrove estate in Gloucestershire.

She claimed constructive dismissal and breach of contract, and that she had been sexually discriminated against because she was being prevented from working her normal hours on her return from maternity leave.

But an employment tribunal panel ruled that Mrs Burgess had failed to prove any of her allegations.

Tribunal panel chairman Olga Harper said: "That was just not the case.

'Outrageous claims'

"She has not shown that she was treated less favourably than a man or a woman who was not pregnant or not on maternity leave."

Prince Charles
Mrs Burgess was Charles's personal secretary

She added: "Having heard all the evidence there can be no doubt that the applicant was a respected and valued employee, whose standard of work was high."

Earlier, Prince Charles's solicitor dismissed the claims of a racist environment at the prince's home as "outrageous".

Mrs Burgess was said to be "disappointed" at the outcome of the tribunal.

Her solicitor Stephen Venton said: "She realised it was difficult taking on a respondent of this magnitude but she felt that she had to do so and it was always a matter of principle for her."

'Old school'

Speaking after the hearing, the Prince of Wales's private secretary, Stephen Lamport, said Mrs Burgess had been "a much respected and highly regarded member of the Prince of Wales's household".

Mrs Burgess resigned from her part-time job as personal secretary to the prince in March this year, following a dispute about the hours she was expected to work.

She had worked at Highgrove for 10 years.

Mrs Burgess told the tribunal on Thursday the household was "still very much the old school and they have not really taken to black people".

She added: "I never felt part of the team. There were always black jokes and names going round.

"Because it is the Royal Family it is still very protected. It has its own rules and regulations."

'No hard facts'

But at the hearing on Friday, the prince's solicitor Adam Tolley called Mrs Burgess an unreliable and argumentative witness, who had failed to answer the questions put to her.

He told the hearing in Bristol that she had made the allegation of racism "without a single hard fact to back it up".

Highgrove Estate
She claimed racist jokes went round the estate
"There were quite outrageous allegations about discrimination which had never been raised before and they are quite without any basis at all," he said.

Mrs Burgess had told the tribunal that staff at Highgrove wanted to replace her with a white temporary assistant, Siobhan Bucknall, who had been employed while Mrs Burgess was away on maternity leave.

But the head of personnel at Highgrove, Mimi Watts, denied that and said that in fact the prince's personal secretary was a valued member of staff.

Ms Harper said: "We do not find that the respondent preferred Siobhan Bucknall to the applicant."

Omar Malik, the solicitor representing Mrs Burgess, suggested to Mrs Watts that she and the prince's deputy private secretary, Mark Bolland, preferred Ms Bucknall because they wanted a white secretary at Highgrove.

But Mrs Watts denied this, saying: "No, we were looking forward to Lizzie [Mrs Burgess] coming back."

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