“Spoilt child” comment leads to successful age discrimination claim

“Spoilt child” comment leads to successful age discrimination claim

  • Date: Wednesday 26th May 2021
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A recent employment tribunal case highlights the peril for employers of ill-considered comments to their employees. In this case, Mr Rawnsley, a 20-year-old factory operative with three years’ service at Queniborough Aluminium Services in Leicester asked his manager if any colleagues should be assisting him to clean up a work area. The managing director of the company responded by striking Rawnsley in the face, pushing him and telling him to leave the premises.

On his way out the employee wrote on his clock card: “attacked by owner, no longer feel safe here.” He then went to see his GP and was signed off with stress.

Later in the day, the director texted Rawnsley to apologise for his part in the incident. He also said that if the employee did not contact the company or show up for work the following week, it would be assumed that he had decided to leave.

When Rawnsley did not reply or return to work, the director sent a letter in which he called the employee a “jumped up, know it all spoilt child.” The letter also said the position of the company now was that Rawnsley had resigned and “should this not be the case you would be dismissed for gross insubordination.”

The employment tribunal found that the director was guilty of age discrimination for referring to the 20-year-old worker as a “spoilt child” and it concluded that Mr Rawnsley had been subject to less favourable treatment as a result of his age.

The judge said there was no justification for the assault on Mr Rawnsley and it was “difficult to envisage circumstances in which such a dismissal could be anything other than unfair.” The employee was entitled to resign and treat himself as having been dismissed because there was no other reason for the resignation other than the conduct of the director.

The employment tribunal awarded Mr Rawnsley £8,000.

The case highlights the importance of using professional, balanced and objective language when raising concerns with an employee about their conduct.

Source: Manuela Grossmann

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