Sales rep nicknamed “Gramps” wins age discrimination Employment Tribunal claim

MoJA sales representative nicknamed “Gramps” by a younger colleague has won a claim for age discrimination in the Employment Tribunal.

Mr Alan Dove, 61, won £63,391 after an Employment Tribunal found that he had been unfairly dismissed by his former employer and that he had been subjected to direct age discrimination after he had been described as “long in the tooth” by clients and nicknamed “gramps” by a younger colleague.

Mr Dove commenced employment as a salesperson for Brown & Newirth Limited (a jewellry manufacturer) in 1990. There were no issues with his performance until 2010. when there was a team restructure. The reorganisation included the appointment of a new head of sales and director of sales, both of whom were considerably younger than Mr Dove. After the restructure the head of sales started to refer to Mr Dove as “Gramps” and continued to do so for a number of years, in which time period Mr Dove did not complain.

In late 2013 Mr Dove was invited to a meeting to discuss concerns relating to his performance and relationships with a number of clients, and a number of other meetings were held in 2014. However, Mr Dove was not made aware of any specific concerns raised by clients regarding his performance.

In early 2015 Mr Dove was informed at a meeting that five of his clients were transferring to the head of sales and it was suggested to Mr Dove that this transfer was taking place as the clients no longer wished to work with Mr Dove. There was nothing in writing from these clients regarding any concerns that they had but the head of sales and sales director later gave evidence that these clients had described Mr Dove as “old fashioned” and “long in the tooth”, and stated that they found his “traditional” approach was not commensurate with their business needs. Mr Dove was also told at this meeting that the actions of the business were “not personal” and that there was a risk that his employment may be terminated if alternative work could not be found for her. Mr Dove’s employment was in fact terminated on 1 April 2015 and his appeal against his dismissal was unsuccessful.

After his dismissal Mr Dove brought claims in the Employment Tribunal for direct age discrimination and unfair dismissal.

The Employment Tribunal found that the transferring of Mr Dove’s workload to a person substantially younger than him and his subsequent dismissal did, in the absence of an alternative explanation, constitute less favourable treatment because of his age. The Tribunal did accept that the views that Mr Dove was “long in the tooth” and “old fashioned” were the views of customers and not of the employer but, however, the Tribunal held that the views of the customers should have been challenged more vigorously by the employer; instead, it appeared that the employer had simply accepted those views.

The Employment Tribunal held that Mr Dove had been subjected to direct age discrimination and unfair dismissal, and awarded Mr Dove £63,391 as compensation for loss of earnings and injury to feelings.

Chris Hadrill, a specialist solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “Businesses should be careful to avoid a perception that they are discriminating against employees on any grounds as, should the Tribunal find the employer liable for those claims, this could lead to a potentially significant award of compensation being made against the business.”