60-year-old called a ‘pensioner’ was victim of discrimination and unfair dismissal

 A geophysicist has been awarded £340,000 for unfair dismissal, age discrimination, victimisation, and breach of contract after his boss referred to him as a “pensioner” and added: “We need to find a way to take him out,” an employment tribunal has ruled. 

The Reading Tribunal found that geoscience company Petro Trace discriminated against Mr Gregory because of his age, and that he was treated less favourably than comparators when he was chosen for dismissal. In addition, the company tried to replace him with “younger and more active experts”. Judge Matthews did not accept Petro Trace’s argument that the primary reason for Gregory’s dismissal was capability, because other managers had no issues with his work and the performance issues were only brought up after Gregory made allegations of discrimination. In addition, Matthews determined that Petro Trace was unable to prove that redundancy was not the primary cause of Gregory’s departure and that capability or another possibly legitimate reason was not the main one. As a result, Gregory’s claims of unfair dismissal were successful. 

According to Judge Matthews, even though Petro Trace was concerned about its financial stability, “there were no serious attempts to enter a redundancy or restructuring process”. They also stated that Petro Trace considered other people to replace Gregory, which is not “consistent with a diminution” in the need for personnel to carry out work of the type that Gregory was carrying out. 

Furthermore, Judge Matthews deemed an email containing the comments that Gregory was “over 60 years old” and not a “young person” but a “pensioner” to be “inherently discriminatory”.

Gregory was awarded a basic fee of £3,264, followed by an award of financial loss of £147,853. 

He was then awarded £20,000 in respect to injury to feelings – including the “long-term effect on his confidence” – and an ACAS uplift of 25 per cent, amounting to £42,779.25. An interest rate of 8 per cent was then applied on past loss and injury to feelings, amounting to £7,477.22. This was followed by a gross-up fee of £118,839.33. Consequently, Petro Trace was ordered to pay him a total of £340,212.80.

This case is a good reminder that a tribunal will not simply accept the respondent’s reasoning for dismissal at face value but will carefully analyse the underlying reason. 

It is important to take advice at an early stage and follow a fair procedure. Businesses cannot just decide not to follow the ACAS code because it does not suit them. 

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