Age Based Jibe Lands Magazine Company in Hot Water

This week we look at a case involving age discrimination and constructive dismissal.

A 62-year-old grandmother has lost an age discrimination case against her former employer, Stag Productions Ltd.

The Respondent is a magazine company. It published an article reviewing the new Renault Kadjar.

The article mentioned that 5 employees had test driven the vehicle. They wrote the vehicle had “three spells as family transport, one as a ride for the bachelor about town and the other as comfy wheels for a grandmother”.

Mrs. Dopson took umbrage at this remark. She said she had no problems being a grandmother. However, she did not like to be referred to as such, at work.

She said the comment led to jokes in the workplace and undermined her position as Sales Director.

She raised a grievance. This was rejected. So was her appeal. She then resigned and claimed constructive unfair dismissal and direct age discrimination.

Decision

The employment tribunal found her discrimination claim could have succeeded but was out of time. It’s not hard to see why. She suffered less favourable treatment because of age.

Her constructive dismissal claim was slightly more complicated. It was pled as a continuing act of discrimination that ultimately led to a breach of trust and confidence and therefore resignation.

However, the tribunal found that the discriminatory act was a one off. Any breach that occurred at that point was affirmed by the Claimant.

Takeaway Point

It Perhaps the most interesting point about this case is the way it has been reported in the media.

Several outlets mocked the apparently ludicrous outcome that calling a grandmother a grandmother at work could be discriminatory.

This misses the point. As Lord Steyn says, in law context is everything.

Merely calling someone a grandmother is not discriminatory. Just as calling someone pregnant is not, either.

However, It is when a protected characteristic is the premise for less favourable treatment, that there is the potential for discrimination.

Age discrimination is one of the less talked about forms of discrimination, but it is still protected by the Equality Act.

After all, you wouldn’t see a headline saying, “apparently calling someone a Paki, even though they are from Pakistan, can be race discrimination”.