Pharmacy worker wins claim for age discrimination after mocking about hearing and memory
- Date: Tuesday 15th September 2020
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A pharmacy worker who was repeatedly teased by younger works about her hearing and memory has been awarded £15,000 at a recent tribunal hearing. The tribunal found that the employee at St Chad’s Chemist in Oldham was subject to age discrimination from the start of her employment by younger colleagues who openly made fun of her when she did not hear them call her name.
The colleagues would shout in front of customers “Sue, Sue, Sue you can’t hear can you!”
The employee was also mocked for struggling to remember things and when she asked colleagues for help the colleagues would respond with comments such as “not again, you have already asked this.” The conduct of the colleagues caused the employee embarrassment.
During her employment with the pharmacy the employee was diagnosed with hearing loss and began wearing a hearing aid. However, the mocking by colleagues did not stop and continued regardless of whether she could hear.
The employer then failed to address the employees concerns when they were raised with the branch manager.
When she met with the director responsible for people management issues, he told her to “let it go over your head” and “smile and get on with the job.” The organisation failed to take witness statements, arrange training for the team or contact the HR department. Furthermore, her branch manager stopped greeting her in the morning and continually highlighted her errors.
The breakdown in the relationship was further compounded when the branch manager asked her to undertake a task outside her normal duties which required her to bend and reach into bags. The task caused the employee pain because of her osteoarthritis. It took 45 minutes to complete even though the manager had said it would take 10 minutes. The manager was also fully aware of the health condition. The incident triggered a period of sickness absence and within a week the employee had been dismissed.
The tribunal found that the employee’s concerns about age related teasing were not taken seriously or addressed as a complaint. Instead the manager saw the matter as “just a moan and groan.” The managers conduct was seen by the tribunal as an example of “escalating treatment” towards the employee over that period of time.
Learning for Employers
- Take employee complaints and concerns seriously
- Take a statement from the employee in the first instance
- Investigate the complaint
- Determine if disciplinary action is required against the perpetrators
- Feedback to the employee on the findings of the investigation
- Arrange awareness training or a toolbox talk for the team and keep records of attendees and content. Consider delivering the training on an annual basis.
- Involve HR or your SSG HR advisor at the beginning of the process for support and guidance.
Source: Gavin Parrott