AI To Pay £1m Over Stressed Worker’s Suicide

Amnesty International is to pay more than £1 million in compensation to the family of a long-serving employee who killed himself after suffering stress at the organisation. Gaëtan Mootoo, 65, died in his Paris office in May last year and left a note in which he complained of the pressure of work and lack of management support. The French authorities have ruled that his death was a workplace accident and a review by James Laddie, QC, a specialist in employment law, said that a “serious failure of management” had contributed to his suicide. The Times understands that lawyers for Mr Mootoo’s family are seeking a settlement comprising £600,000 for work-related failures, £300,000 for his suffering at the hands of management and about £200,000 for the loss to his widow and son. Amnesty insiders said that because of a shortfall in its insurance cover, some of the compensation would be met from funds raised to campaign against human-rights violations. An independent report highlighted a “toxic work culture” at Amnesty in which bullying, discrimination and overwork were rife. The consultants who produced the report are also preparing a file on specific incidents of workplace misconduct that could lead to further claims. Insiders said that senior managers wanted to settle the Mootoo case “to avoid potentially embarrassing litigation and further damage to our global reputation”. They are also concerned that a legal battle with the family of Mr Mootoo, who had worked there for 32 years, would further strain relations between management and staff. Amnesty is a campaigning organisation rather than a charity but much of its income comes from a trust regulated by the Charity Commission. The 2017 accounts of the Amnesty International UK Charitable Trust show that it raised more than £15 million from donations and legacies and gave more than £10 million to Amnesty International Ltd for “research into and relief of human-rights violations”. Legal fees and the cost of consultants to investigate Mr Mootoo’s death and Amnesty’s workplace culture will also have to come from funds intended for human-rights work. Liz Griffin, a former Amnesty worker who has researched the pressures on human-rights activists, said that its leaders were paying the price for years of failing to listen to concerns. “However big the payout is, it will never compensate Gaëtan’s family for a loss which could and should have been prevented,” said Professor Griffin, a fellow of the University of Essex’s human rights centre. “An NGO which has the protection of the human being as its raison d’être could and should have avoided spending these funds by doing something about the longstanding complaints of staff about discrimination, humiliation, overwork and bullying.” The Unite union has called for members of Amnesty’s senior leadership team to resign because of the “toxic and dysfunctional working culture”. Amnesty declined to comment but sources confirmed that it was in discussions with Mr Mootoo’s family.

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