Age Discrimination - beware off the cuff comments

The Employment Tribunal has considered an interesting case recently. A 59 year old employee worked at Winkworth estate agency. She was asked to use new software and at her appraisal no performance issues were raised and she secured a pay rise. Just one month after her appraisal, she was called into a meeting and the fact that there were some errors in her work was raised with her.

A Director told her at a meeting that she would be 'better suited to a traditional estate agency'. The employee interpreted this to mean that the Director thought she was too old to work in a modern office and that he thought that she should leave.  The employee took time on sick leave and raised a grievance. The Director who made the comments, which were the subject of her grievance, was present and participated in the grievance meeting. He said that his comment was supposed to mean that he was referring to the employee's values not her age. The grievance was not upheld and the employee appealed and resigned immediately.

The Employment Tribunal considered that the Director's comment was a clear reference to the claimant's age and her claim of age discrimination was upheld. The Tribunal also considered that the grievance meeting was not independent and fair.  Her claim for constructive dismissal was upheld.

There are a number of issues for employers to take from this decision. It is important that all managers and Directors are properly trained to ensure that comments such as the one made in this case are not made to employees. If a grievance is raised, the employer must ensure that any meeting is fair and independent. It is important to ensure that anyone against whom the grievance is being raised is not at such a meeting.  If there are issues relating to an employee's performance, it is important to ensure that proper procedures are followed and warnings given and followed up.

To discuss this or any other employment related issue, contact us.

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