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'Long in the tooth' employee succeeds with claims of age discrimination

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A sales representative with 25 years service has been awarded £63,390.95 by an Employment Tribunal following claims of age discrimination and unfair dismissal.

Mr Alan Dove, 61, was the only member of the sales team at a luxury jewellers who was over the age of 50. He was labelled ‘traditional’, ‘long in the tooth’ and was also referred to as ‘Gramps’ for several years by Head of Sales, Gareth Thomas.

Mr Thomas claimed that he had intended for the term ‘Gramps’ to be an affectionate term of address, and that he also had names for other members of the team, including ‘gimp boy’. Mr Dove however indicated that he found the term very disrespectful.

Mr Thomas had stated in an email that a client had complained that Mr Dove was ‘too long in the tooth and was a traditional sales rep which doesn’t work for their business any more’. However, the Tribunal heard that the client categorically denied making any complaint. Mr Dove told the tribunal he felt his clients had been ‘engineered away from him’.

John Ball, the firm’s director, raised the client’s supposed concerns with Mr Dove, who replied, ‘In all the 40 years of my work I have never been challenged like this.’ Mr Ball then terminated Mr Dove’s employment.

The tribunal noted: “He was dismissed, in essence, because some of the clients that he was dealing with had been transferred to Mr Thomas by Mr Ball. This left, in Mr Ball's view, insufficient income to be generated by the claimant. As a matter of fact, of course, Mr Thomas is considerably younger than the claimant."

It said that the use of phrases such as ‘long in the tooth’, ‘old fashioned’ and ‘traditional’ referred to Mr Dove’s age and were “negative views almost certainly based on the claimant’s age”.

What is age discrimination?

The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate against employees, job seekers and trainees due to their age. This includes comments based on an employee’s age, which could be found to constitute harassment.

What can I do about it?

Here at Stephensons we are discrimination specialists. Please get in touch with our employment team on 01616 966 229 where we can discuss a range of funding options with you, including assisting you on a no win no fee basis.

By trainee solicitor, Natalie Parkinson